“Film and TV’s take on [surfing] (we’re looking at you, Animal Kingdom and Point Break) have fallen woefully short.”
That's from The Guardian, in a recent article called “Why Can’t Pop Culture Get Surfing Right?” The author—whom let’s hope is a surfer—is annoyed that the new-ish show Animal Kingdom makes surfers look either lame, or portrays us incorrectly, or much worse: makes us look not very interesting.
I have no idea why The Guardian chose to write this article, considering the very many very important things happening all over the world right now, but they did, and as a surf culture critic, I must respond:
Oh my god, what if Hollywood is right? Have you ever considered that? I had not, until just right now, so let’s run with this idea a bit.
I have an honest-to-god master’s degree from a respected university, and I’m still prone to uncorking gems like this, all the time: "Dude! Some of those little wedgie ones look super sick! So sick!" Lord, how that must sound to the tourist parked next to me snapping pictures of an Ocean Beach sunset. I have had entire conversations that consist of nothing but the word “dude.” I have yelled “Fucking Kooks!” at the top of my lungs on the beach. In a crowded lineup. In my car. Probably in a surf shop, too.
I’m so ashamed.
But also, I think we might sound just like Hollywood writers think we sound.
What else usually bothers about Hollywood surf movies…that surfers are jobless layabouts concerned only with waves? I don't know about you, but I spent big chunks of my 20s living off my weekly grocery runs for 5-lb bags of potatoes, $1.99 links of cheap polish sausage, and Tampico orange-flavored drink.
I did this, not because I was in college, but so that I could afford to not work for 6 months at a time, all so I could surf the thoroughly mediocre sandbars and misshapen reefs near my Central Coast home, driving around in various Toyota pickups held together with duct tape and surf wax, perpetually behind in registration payments, never insured, joint in the cupholder, gas tank always, always, always on "E." Would I have pulled on a Richard Nixon Halloween mask and robbed a bank to extend my surf vacation? If I thought I'd get away with it, maybe.
But now that I'm a respectable adult with a job and a wife and a nice car and a credit score, I'm WAY less interesting, even to myself, than when I was falling out of vans amidst a cloud of pot smoke like Spicoli.
I bet that the only thing particularly interesting about surfers to the non-surfing world is our bizarre lingo and our willingness to live like troglodytes in pursuit of something as silly and magical as riding an ocean wave.
What if Hollywood is just distilling our essence to the only part that’s relevant, and holding a mirror back up to us and our strange little world?
Am I right? I have no idea. What do you think?