In 2014 you're going to start something, because you can.
Not a backyard hand-shape. Not a Saturday project. Not a do-it-yourself novelty to shed modern, digital guilt. You're going to start something, because you can. Because we're seeing the dissolution of barriers to every creative field and industry to the point that, if you have an idea today, you have to work pretty hard not to make it happen.
And you, surfer, have an idea. Ten, probably.
Berlin Walls are falling as you read this. Today anyone can publish, obviously, but anyone can be a taxi too (Lyft), or a hotel (Airbnb), or a storefront (Etsy), or a teacher (Skillshare), or an Ivy League student (Coursera), or a producer on the next Zach Braff film (Kickstarter), or a T-shirt designer (Threadless), or a DJ (Soundcloud), or Clark Little (GoPro).
Surfing will be swept up by this, thanks to you, because you're going to start something. Because you can. In 2014 we're at a threshold, all set to democratize widely and boards, waves, clothes and the basic concept of surfing professionally — it's all going to shake.
You'll answer that when you start something. But here are some crude thoughts.
First, desktop manufacturing will make the surf shop resemble the App Store, with board files to download instead of racks and order cards. You'll 3-D print and test four versions of one shape in the course of a single winter groundswell and save your favorite, all for the cost of materials. Then you'll upload the CAD file and someone in Zarautz will try that design himself next week, though maybe as a quad-fin.
The yet-unknown image-capturing descendants of the 7D and GoPro and Soloshot — not to mention what we now call "surf cams"— will make sure every session gets recorded. Moms and girlfriends will be freed from behind the lens. Our collective style will advance drastically following a brief period of depression in which we all finally see what our surfing really looks like. (Progress is rarely painless.)
Wave pools are coming. They'll put surf scarcity in the grave. They'll also bring noncoastal participants onboard in a Cambrian explosion like that of recreational running in the 1970s. Recall Anchorman: "Veronica and I are trying this new fad called jogging. I believe it's jogging, or yogging. It might be a soft J. I'm not sure, but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It's supposed to be wild." Insert "surfing" and there's your 2020s. This year the company that's licensed Spain's Wavegarden technology is breaking ground on its first US surf park. They promise 6-foot barrels for the heartland.
Surf media? At tipoff 15 years ago we had three major magazines and a DVD case at the local shop. Now it's halftime, and the score reads as follows: Each pro is a publishing brand of one brought to us by Vimeo and Instagram. The Adobe/Apple/Canon families have made production child's play. Lewis Samuels became the surf writer of his generation by being mean to strangers on a plain, reverse-chronological WordPress page. One magazine is gone and the DVD seems like a ridiculous, fragile fossil. Now the second half is starting and it'll bring us connected objects and augmented reality and wearable tech and whatever Google Glass morphs into — plus that thing you start, when you start something, which you will, because you can.
You, know it or not, are an entrepreneur. A product designer. An innovator/visionary/disruptor/change agent. And a surfer. It's the best time ever to be you.
Pick a problem. Contests are boring. Where's a fin key when I need one? Why don't more videos show the waves and boards I actually ride?
Or narrow it: Wetsuit tan. Wetsuit fit. Wetsuit smell. Wetsuit longevity. Wetsuit try-on. Wetsuit removal.
Build something. Physical, digital, experiential. Test it, share it, break it, make it better, do it again. Put it online. Give it away. Grow an audience. Find a niche. Start a business. Invent your next job.
Please do not start another clothing brand, unless you're actually going to do something new. And even then.
Truly, if you've even a spark of ambition to work in or around surfing, or to change the sport, or just to have a neat side project, now is the time. There are very few gatekeepers left standing. Cheap tech and crowdfunding are like lighter fluid. Ideas are catching fire left and right — ideas much worse than yours, wrought by simpletons, but then 80 percent of success is showing up.
Please show up. Start something. Because you can. There's a higher-than-you'd-guess chance that what we ride, read, wear, watch or talk about this time next year will be your little project, and it may not be so little at all.
But only if you start it. Now. —Stuart Cornuelle