Brave New Surf

Rob Gilley on how dystopian literature can help your surf life

No crowds. Photo: Gilley
No alphas or betas to worry about here. Photo: Gilley

Aldous Huxley, one of the pre-eminent intellectuals of the 20th Century, was probably best known for writing the novel, Brave New World. In this science fiction narrative, he offered a bleak view of the future—a dystopian civilization that deprives personal freedom, and brings about the near-complete dehumanization of mankind.

What’s lesser known is that thirty years later Huxley wrote a follow-up to his famous book, titled Brave New World Revisited. This essay analyzed whether the world had moved closer or further away from the future described in Brave New World, and concluded that not only was society moving closer, it was doing so at a much faster pace than originally anticipated.

Huxley cited overpopulation as the principal cause for this accelerating fate, and went on to dissect the dangers of too many people sharing too few resources. Further, he deconstructed modern socio-economics to show that when it really comes down to it, you can trace most—if not all—of the world’s major problems to population density. Famine, war, social inequality, you name it—they all had their roots in too many people in too small of a space.

READ: Managing a Lineup

This simple concept always made a lot of sense to me, and really became evident when traveling. With little exception, it was clear that there was a direct relationship between population and quality of life. The more people in a given area, the more problems there seemed to be. By contrast, in a sparsely populated place like South Island, New Zealand, for example, people seemed to lead an almost utopian existence.

Huxley’s premise seems to be especially visible in the surf world. As most of you know, whenever there’s conflict in the lineup—bad vibes, arguing, fights—it’s almost invariably during a crowded session. By turns, most of life’s best and most rewarding surfs come when it’s a solo session or just a group of friends sharing a lightly attended or empty lineup.

MAGAZINE: Crowd Control

So my advice to you is this: armed with Huxley’s revelation, let it guide your behavior. If you don’t like violence or stink eyes or some greedy dickwad ruining your session, go somewhere else. Drive down the coast and look for an empty peak. Go to that outer island you always thought might have waves.

Bravely go where no man has gone before.