[This is the introduction to SURFER Magazine Volume 59, Issue 7: “The Antihero Issue”, on newsstands and available for digital download now. Click here to subscribe.”
There's an old saying about the band The Velvet Underground, which is that they didn't sell many records, but everyone who bought one started a band. There's some debate over who said it first, or if it's actually just a misquote of Brian Eno, but either way it speaks to a fundamental truth about the ways in which art resonates with human beings, compelling them to internalize it, reinterpret it in a way that speaks more directly to their own experience and inevitably create something of their own.
The universe is unfathomably big, life can be maddeningly perplexing and if you follow that thread too far you end up wearing all black, curled up in the fetal position under a stack of Frederick Nietzsche books. But if you feel confused about your place in it all, sometimes a piece of art, be it a song or a painting or the way someone rides a surfboard, can resonate with you so much that it feels almost specifically made for you—to snap everything else into focus and reveal a clear pattern where once you only saw chaos. For a kid in late-'60s New York City, this may have meant hearing Lou Reed's voice over a record store's speakers and suddenly feeling like starting a band trumps any and all of your biological imperatives. Or for a kid in mid-2000s San Diego (or countless other coastal cities, for that matter), this may have meant seeing "156 Tricks" playing on loop at your local surf shop and suddenly feeling like you can't get your hands on a can of spray paint and create crude cartoons on your entire quiver fast enough.
Creativity is contagious, and anyone willing to express themself in a bold, authentic way is liable to become the next Patient Zero, and that's something we should all encourage and celebrate. Would aerial surfing have become punk if Christian Fletcher hadn't been exposed to the burgeoning skate and hardcore scenes of '80s California? Would Ozzie Wright have become one of the most colorful, magnetic characters in surfing without being exposed to that punk ethos and reinterpreting it in his own way? Would Noa Deane be plucking guitar strings between stratospheric punts if he hadn't discovered surfing's counterculture idols as a kid?
It's funny to imagine an alternate reality in which Noa Deane never tapped into surfing's counterculture and is currently studying to be a tax attorney in Brisbane, but we're not going to get into chaos or multiverse theories here. Instead we're going toshowcase the left-field thinkers, the rebels, the revolutionaries and the wildcards who cut bold new paths in surfing and changed its trajectory in strange and wonderful ways in the process. In the following pages, you'll find an interview with Deane about freesurfing's wild roots and how they inform its way forward. We also made a photo feature from a most-unconventional surf trip, where Dylan Graves took a chance and lucked into some truly incredible lake waves. And with the WSL's recent revival of airbased competition, we shined a light on the evolution of the concept, from Surfing magazine's SMAS events to the most recent punt-fest in France.
We're fortunate to be a part of a culture filled with characters constantly looking for new ways to approach waves and to express themselves. Because it's the weirdos, the rebels and the misfits who move things forward and keep things interesting. They might not even realize how important they are to the evolution of their culture in the moment, but often enough, time inevitably proves them right. Just ask Brian Eno.