[This is the introduction to SURFER Magazine Volume 60, Issue 2: “The Strange Lines Issue”, on newsstands and available for digital download now. Click here to subscribe.”]
I’m told that space is pretty big. Infinite, in fact. And in all that infinite space, there’s a whole lot of weird shit being discovered more or less all the time. In April of this year alone, scientists snapped the first-ever photograph of a black hole using a method called very-long-baseline interferometry and it looked sort of like an out-of-focus Cheeto; astronomers announced that they may have detected a new planet orbiting around our solar system’s closest neighboring star when they noticed that said star, Proxima Centauri, was experiencing “wobbles” in its orbit caused by the planet’s gravity; and, lastly, an earthquake…err marsquake?…was detected for the very first time by NASA’s InSight lander on the surface of Mars.
And that’s just some of what’s going on in the observable universe, which is likely just the tip of the ol’ cosmic iceberg. Some scientists believe we live in a multiverse (yep, it’s not just the writers of “Rick and Morty” or that new Spider-Man movie), where in the infinite reach of space, an infinite number of universes exist, potentially including an infinite number of Earths and an infinite number of “you” and “me.” If you play out this game of infinite permutations of us, some of them would be experiencing an identical existence to our own while others are experiencing slightly (or hugely) different versions—all of us just cruising the multiverse, living it up and, of course, going surfing.
If that’s truly the case (I’m just going to assume that it is, since it’s more fun that way and no one can disprove it at present), then you have to wonder about those slightly different versions of Earth. Is there a version in which Simon Anderson lost the first heat at the ’81 Bells event and the twin-fin continued to evolve as the standard bearer of high-performance surfing? Or maybe there’s a version where human evolution included prehensile tails, which are used for better balance amid aerial rotations and vastly-improved tube stalling via tail drags. Or perhaps there’s a version where artificial superintelligence has already usurped humanity and people no longer ride waves at all—that’s a privilege enjoyed by androids and androids alone. What would these alternate-Earth surfers think of our own surfy existence?
This issue is about some of the weirder elements of our surf world, the things that might cause a surf tourist from another universe to raise an eyebrow and say, “Umm…what?” Senior writer Sean Doherty caught up with aerial maestro Chippa Wilson and the highly-irreverent crew behind Drag Board Co. to discuss the bizarrely-entertaining softboard movement gaining momentum in Australia. Managing editor Ashtyn Douglas-Rosa went to a frigid corner of British Colombia to try to understand why we, as a surf culture, have such an obsession with the idea of freezing our asses off in search of perfect waves, when there’s perfectly good surf in easier-to-score (and warmer) locations. She also caught up with members of one of surfing’s strangest subcultures, that of the hardcore local, to learn about how localism tactics have changed in recent years and how they continue to effectively keep outsiders away in spite of the legal and technological forces working against them.
In one universe, surf culture may have evolved to have a deep-seated sense of comradery, mutual respect and love for thy fellow surfer, so traditional localism tactics would seem positively abhorrent to them. Alternatively, there may be a Mad Max version out there somewhere as well, where surfers wear weird leather pants in the lineup and try to skewer each other with appropriately-steampunk harpoon launchers.
One thing is for sure, and that’s that regardless of what we think of ourselves and our surfing here in this particular corner of space, a surfer from a vastly different universe would think that what we’re doing is weird as hell. I don’t know about you, but I find a strange comfort in that.