Chas Smith: Dear Surfing,

Dear SurfingIllustration by Noa Emberson

Issue 6 2014Dear Surfing,

The grand Winston Churchill once said, "To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour."

I was figuratively tapped many years ago. I was young and eager and I felt a tap tap tap on my tender shoulder and heard a gentle whisper in my ear. "Write about sssssssurfing..." the whisper said "...but don't be boring. Boring is death." I nodded and began to write about surfing. I traveled the world, going to places that no one should go to surf like Yemen and Somalia. Then I traveled to places everyone should go to surf like Australia's Gold Coast and Oahu's North Shore. I saw beautiful things. I met beautiful people. I did my best to capture the very particular je ne sais quoi that is the surf life. And, if I have written it once, I have written it a thousand times. No life is finer than the surf life. No life is richer, no life is more fun, no life is sexier or dreamier. And again, no life has better people.

I mean, the Hobgoods? Sterling Spencer? Coco Ho? I could go on forever and ever singing the praises of surfing's men and women. They are, quite simply, the best because they live the fine life to its absolute fullest. They spend weeks on boat trips hunting perfect waves, months flying from coastal location to coastal location, years in the barrel.

Surfing's men and women are the explorers of old mixed with the super rich of new. They are a breed unto their own.

I got into trouble, from time to time, both for writing fruity and for pushing buttons, but that was the most fun of all because I wasn't bored. I was never bored. And, amidst the rage, I felt good. Surfing is the fruitiest thing and buttons need to be pushed. Feathers ruffled. Those living the fine life to its absolute fullest need to be reminded of their responsibility to the world. I was there to remind and I felt very good.

And I was happy.

But lately I have felt a new and different figurative tap and it is undeniable. My heart knows it is time to leave the beach behind. I could have grown old, sitting on sand with a pen and notebook, watching our heroes slay the mighty Pipeline. I could have grown fat eating Spam musubi and drinking ice-cold Saint Archers. But, really, I could never have allowed myself to grow fat. Too many fabulous Dior suits to wear!

And so I am pushing on. I am going to cover war, again, and watch the world melt and be fruity and push buttons. Ruffle feathers. I will get back into trouble, from time to time, but I won't be bored. I will never be bored. Yes, the grand Derek Rielly once said, "There is no such thing as other people being too mad." And to that I say, "Amen."

And so, as I bid surfing adieu, I wish it well. May the waves rise up to meet you and the wind be forever offshore (unless you are trying tricky new airs and then it can be onshore for a few hours). May your face be tan. And until we meet again, may Kelly Slater hold you in the palm of his supple and never-aging hand.


Chas Smith