“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect." —Mark Twain
There was a time, not long ago, when surfing was stuck in a rut—no matter how many world titles Kelly Slater won, the hobby or sport (whatever we call it now) still wasn't that cool. Surfing was boring. Same thing over and over. A DVD stuck on repeat. Every surfer and every style exactly the same. No creativity and no originality. That was then, and this is now.
Competition in surfing will never go away. People are always going to say that without a world title you can never be called the "Best Surfer In The World." But today, having a world title doesn't carry the same weight as being the coolest surfer in the world.
"Hobbies: Drinking Beer." That is a direct quote from probably the most unintended rock star of surfing: Dane Reynolds. Current World Tour ranking: No. 4. Dane, among others, has made surfing interesting again. At J-Bay, in Reynolds' quarterfinal heat against Taj Burrow, Dane pretty much gave the heat to Burrow by unsuccessfully trying airs on all but one wave. Why was this cool? He wanted to do airs and wasn't going to go away from that game plan. When have you ever seen the best surfer in the world lose because they wanted to do airs? Never. Dane's questionable thinking and freakish talent to do the unimaginable has made him the coolest surfer on the planet. He achieved this worthy label purely off his talent and personality—not his world title count.
Half-naked-women portrayer, art enthusiast, blogger, inadvertent fashionista, aerialist, Modern Collective star Dion Agius is making a living off surfing for all these reasons. Dion currently lives in Sydney, Australia, because he wants to live in a place where there is something going on 24/7, rather than living the token beach/pro surfer life. Dion decided to spend this summer in New York City with fellow "hipster" Warren Smith, capturing the art and culture through the eyes of two urban pro surfers. They have started a blog photographing what they think is interesting and unique in a city rich in urban culture. How does this relate to surfing? It doesn't necessarily, and that's what makes it cool. They're just pro surfers unintentionally making surfing cool in places where, until recently, surfing was looked at as static.
My mom was in middle school when the boys from Bustin’ Down The Door were making their presence known. I couldn't walk yet in the Curren v. Occy days. And I can barely remember Slater winning his first World Title. But I know that surfing is finally cool—and it's not because of how many world titles one guy has won. It's because finally surfers are becoming individuals and are being given the opportunity to represent companies that match their personality: Alex Knost and RVCA, Andrew Doheny and Volcom, Warren Smith and Insight, Dion Agius and Globe, Julian Wilson and Quiksilver.
What is cool or in right now may not necessarily be cool or in tomorrow. And maybe winning world titles is the coolest or best thing in surfing. I don't know. But maybe, just maybe, we can keep this movement of individuality going and eject the DVD stuck on repeat.