March Issue 2009 Surfing Magazine

By Evan Slater

Waves shape us — especially the ones from your very first homebreak. As Matt Walker points out in his essay (“You Are Where You Surf”), there’s something about those formative years when every nuance is recorded, catalogued and referenced for life. And it’s this database that generally determines what kind of surfing machine you are. Do you run out of batteries when you surf in a tight, aggressive pack? Or do you become supercharged? Do you grow 10 feet tall as the swell tops the charts, or do you shrink away to the nearest protected cove?

Chances are, where you grew up and who you grew up surfing with will determine a lot of this. Call it waveriding evolution — and it helps explain everything from Aaron Cormican’s freakish small-wave talent to Mark Healey’s Swiss exercise balls in 50-foot surf. Yes, they possess certain natural abilities and inclinations to make them who they are, but their environment played the biggest role in their development. Classic cases of nurture over nature.

This is a great theory to help explain the lot of us, but it by no means has to determine your surfing fate. Just ask the Durban surfer with the nickname “Twiggy” who went on to become the most psychotic big-wave surfer in the world. Or the coppertone kid from Florida, who honed his skills at Second Light and turned that small-wave repertoire into nine world titles, a win at the Eddie and one of the best acts ever at Pipe and Backdoor. These are evolutionary mutants who break stereotypes and move the sport forward in refreshing new ways. They’re also the ones with the tendencies for greatness since they’ve shed the labels and created a whole new species.

This should be encouraging news for everyone. Our homebreak may shape us, but it doesn’t have to shackle us.