What is hard-core surf travel today?

Hard-core (adj) Unswervingly committed; uncompromising; dedicated
Difficult (adj) Hard to do, make, or carry out; requiring much skill and planning to be performed successfully.

Back in the surf trip days of yore–before surf specific travel agents or surf resorts that promised to do everything except paddle you out into the lineup–the ethos of surf travel revolved around exploration and discovery. There were three firmly held surf travel mores: 1) discovery 2) patience 3) secrecy (yeah, right). And the calamities of surf exploration were many. Back then, long, smelly bus rides; police bribery; back-alley robbery; wrong turns; missed flights; dirty drinking water; malaria; days–sometimes weeks–of no surf; all of these possibilities, and more, wrecked havoc on the anxieties of the traveling surfer. Often just finding an ocean with a ride-able wave was reason enough to claim victory. For discovery to take place the traveling surfer subjected himself to a litany of difficulties. He resided in the “culture of the unknown.” The deeper the surf exploration, the more hardships to overcome. The more hardships overcome, the more hard-core the adventure.

The well-documented Naughton/Peterson travelogue (as published in SURFER 1972-84, and documented in Gregory Schell’s “THE FAR SHORE”) established a benchmark for hard-core surf travel based upon discovery, patience and secrecy. And while there were many other surfing Marco Polos out there, the fervent adventures of Naughton/Peterson represented an ideal that kindled every surfer’s imagination.

These days, however, the surf trip based upon the ethic of discovery has taken a back seat to the reality of surf trips based upon the ethic of guarantees. What used to be a two-month exploration is now a ten-day “getaway.” No longer do we wait on an African beach for the monsoon season to blow through and a swell to arrive. And the minimal swell that Naughton/Peterson waited for through hell and high water wouldn’t even garner small mention at a magazine editorial meeting, what with giant Teahupoo and perfect J-Bay to dispense to the masses.

Don’t worry, hard-core surf exploration is not dead. However, I contend that hard-core surf travel has a new, separate and altogether different ideal than “discover, wait, don’t tell.” No longer is roughing it in the African monsoon season hard-core, rather it is unnecessary. The information and technology available to us has resulted in an ethos not based on discovery, but based on the surgical strike. Our emphasis has shifted from one of exploratory to one of accessibility. It’s the ethos of “hit and split.”

You see, we don’t need to look any more. We still can. I am by no means suggesting that exploring is wrong. It’s just that we don’t have to. Surfers have scoured, prodded, and examined the world’s coastlines for almost four decades. The GPS coordinates for each and every surfable wave downloaded into somebody’s iPOD. The surf globe has been so picked apart guys are going on surf trips to Antarctica, for God’s sake.

Because, for the most part, we know when and where, the difficulty now lies within our ability to access information (storm force, swell direction, lunar phases, tides, flight availability, wind conditions, etc.) and apply it while maintaining a high probability of “scoring.”