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Issue 9, 2014

Black And White

< IN MY FOUR YEARS AT SURFING MAGAZINE I'VE COVERED A DOZEN WCT EVENTS, FROM SNAPPER TO LOWERS TO RIO. I watched from the cliff when Kelly stuck his full-rotator 10 at Bells Beach, and from the sand when Mick caught his buzzer-beater for the world title at Pipeline. I've watched guys jump rope, punch boards and spray Champagne. And on the other end of the spectrum, I've escaped the masses on freesurfing trips. Indonesia with Tom Curren. Ecuador with Alex Gray. Mexico with Dane Reynolds. I've seen them get cover shots and ender clips. Heard them brainstorm creative projects and watched them goof around with Super-8 cameras instead of surf. I've loved it all.

We created this issue around the question, "is surfing a sport?" But as we explored the topic, it became less about sport vs. art and more about competition vs. freesurfing. Surf media veterans Matt Pruett and Travis Ferré discuss the topic at length on Pg. 74, each making convincing arguments for sport and art, respectively. And when we asked surfers for their perspective, we found that in most cases their opinions were consistent with whichever direction they'd gone in their career. But it was something that Brendon Gibbens said that made the most sense. When we spoke, he was in Bali filming some lifestyle scenes for Joe G's Strange Rumblings, traveling with Creed McTaggart, Dion Agius and Nate Tyler — about as free as freesurfing can get. And after explaining that he believes his job is more art than sport, he said, "But it's good to have that dichotomy within surfing. If everyone were a freesurfer or everyone were a competitor, it'd be lame."

Sport and art. Yin and yang. Black and white. And also gray. Surfing is a passport. A social club. A compass. A bath, a babysitter and a destroyer of language barriers. Surfing is water-cooler talk. Therapy. Church. Surfing is exercise, escape, and if you put it in all caps, SURFING is your reading material. Since I was 10, that's what it's been for me, and for the last four years, SURFING's been my job. A job that's shown me foreign seas, world title victories, iconic maneuvers, movie sets, poverty and riches. A range of experiences that would have never occurred if it were just black or just white. Surfing is a sport and surfing is an art and it is so much more, and I'm grateful for that every day. —Taylor Paul