[This is an introduction to SURFER Volume 59, Issue 4, on newsstands and available for download here.]
The first rays of sunlight are just beginning to rise over the dusty rubble of a once bustling coastal city. As the barren landscape warms, an offshore flow kicks into gear, grooming perfect (albeit highly-acidic and plastic-filled) peelers at the adjacent beach break. Our dystopian protagonist, who we'll call Wasteland Wayne, pulls a yellowed single-fin out of his rust-bucket '80s muscle car and starts changing out of his leather jacket and pants, which are entirely too hot and impractical for the post-apocalypse, but everyone else seems to be wearing them, and the only thing worse than getting killed by mutant cannibals is being teased about your lack of modern fashion sense beforehand.
After Wayne finishes waxing his board with a nub of Sex Wax that he won in a knife fight with a maladjusted, hockey-mask wearing local from a nearby break, he opens up a long-expired can of SPAM to share with his loyal junkyard dog.
"We're going to get barreled today, aren't we boy?" Wayne says in playfully-gruff pitch, scratching the ambiguous breed of canine behind the ears. "Yes we are. And we're not going to let any of those bad mutant cannibals back paddle us, are we? No, they're gonna have to wait their turn, aren't they boy? Yeah, that's a good boy."
Maybe this is what the distant future of surfing will look like, or maybe I just watched way too many Mad Max movies growing up. More likely, the surf world of tomorrow is going to look much closer to the way it does today. But to think that nothing will change is almost as crazy as betting on the mutant cannibal takeover of your local beachie.
This issue is our annual, oversized edition, and we chose to tackle a large and unwieldy topic: surfing's future. It's a fraught theme because it's more or less impossible to accurately forecast the technological and cultural shifts that have yet to happen. But by looking close enough at our present, there are at least a few things to glean about surfing's potential trajectory in the near term. In the following pages, you'll find a few very bold predictions by various surfy experts detailing how, eventually, surf forecasts will actually work for your local break, an aerialist will stick an 18-foot air (but probably not an inch higher) and wave pools will be feature perfect replicas of the ocean's most-iconic waves ("The (Un)Official Forecast," pg. 42). You'll also find the story of a trip to the isolated shores of King Island with John Florence and Dave Rastovich, where senior writer Sean Doherty ponders the evolution of the two-time World Champion Florence and the impact he's destined to make on surf culture. Features editor Justin Housman also spoke with one of the biggest overseas surfboard manufacturers in the world, as well as more traditional, local producers to try to parse what the future may hold for the rapidly-changing surfboard industry ("A Crossroads for Surfcraft," pg. 78).
Lastly, while working on this issue, I traveled to New Zealand to meet with Phil McCabe, a longtime Raglan surfer fighting against seabed mining ("The Battlefield Below," pg. 77). The practice of tearing up the seafloor to extract valuable metals from marine habitats has a truly dystopian ring to it, but it's not science fiction—it's a very real threat to the environment, and one that is likely to only become more dangerous in the coming years.
Just like there will always be new innovations in surfing techniques, equipment and technology, there will also always be new threats to our oceans. But one thing that McCabe and co. prove is that whenever these threats rear their ugly head, surfers and other groups of people who understand and appreciate the ocean will be there, holding the line so that these wild places can be appreciated by future generations. And their example is one that we all need to follow, because no one wants to wear chaffing leather pants in a post apocalypse, and no one wants to see our beautiful aquatic playground degraded any more than it already has been.