THETDWS: Shut Up And Dance

This Has Everything To Do With Surfing

Illustration By Noa Emberson

Dudes will tell you all about how they surfed alone. With a souly glint in their eyes, they'll say where they went, the quality of the waves and how long they were out. All alone. This is their moment. The soul-bro's competitive one-upmanship: "I surfed alone this morning. No one out. Totally. Awesomely. Alone. I was."

Because the best part about surfing alone is telling people about it. Otherwise, it's mostly lonely and unfulfilling. No one to verify your barrel. No one to compliment your spray. No one to pretend it doesn't matter to.
And it doesn't matter...does it? Does it?

Surfing is not a competitive sport. There are no points. No win or lose. The best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun, right? Right? Whoever coined that expression must have sucked at surfing. And then they had the nerve to be competitive about sucking. "Look at me, I'm having the most fun of anyone. Weeeee!"

That person should surf alone. Because surfing -- every single moment of it -- is a deadly, bloodthirsty competition. Soul surfers. Novelty riders. Big-wave chargers. All trying to outperform each other on their own internal judging system. Biggest. Newest. Coolest. Weeeeee.

Step One is to admit surfing is a performance. An air is not a practical way to make a section. The only function of a reverse or fins-free turn is to impress other dudes. And yes, lame as it may sound, impressing dudes is the primary functionality of performance surfing.

Admit you care. Confess you are on stage. Say the word "thespian" out loud. Own it. Next time you paddle out, don't just pray the bikinis on the beach will be watching your best wave. Stop off at their towel and dedicate your session to them. Ask their names. Point to the peak. Let them know: "I'm doing this is for you, baby."

Say "baby."

Then jog, don't walk, to the water and never look back. It's all part of the show.

This should help you achieve your next vital realization: You're not very good at this. You have trouble catching a high volume of waves. Your turns aren't very powerful. Most sessions do not include soul-arching barrel rides. You've never even tried an air. Based on everything you've seen in magazines and videos, you suck.

Step Two is to practice. Great dancers don't just feel the music. Plays don't stage themselves spontaneously. And the same goes for performance surfing. You're going to need some dress rehearsals before you pre-claim any more sessions.

Now, if you're over 30, may we suggest you give up now. Go back to having the most fun. Try towing in. Stick an alaia in the sand. Because we're not talking about wasting a few sessions. We're talking about wasting your whole life. Skipping school. Losing jobs. Sabotaging relationships. Ignoring holidays. This is what it takes. Thousands of fruitless flyaways and flareless flares. All in the name of great surfing performances. And even then, it's still not enough.

Study the greats to fathom Step Three. Step Three cannot be learned. Dora. Curren. Dane. Call it panache. Call it smoke and mirrors. Call it "the X factor." Some guys got it; other guys deliver pizzas. I once saw Dion Agius DJ-ing in a club after a surf contest. Up there on stage. Working the turntables. Wowing the room with each track. Headphones pressed to his ear while the girls went wild down by the smoke machine. Afterward, I said, "Great set, Dion, but where are all your records?"

"Records?" he said. "I had that whole set on a thumb-drive." Then he went home with the hottest girl in the room.

The key to performance is -- ta-da! -- performing. The way you doodle on your board. The way you cut the sleeves off your wetsuit (don't do that, by the way). The way you pretend like you just don't care. This is how you care the most of all. But if you're not already working the first two steps (1. Be honest, 2. Practice hard), then jumping ahead to Step Three (3. Don't care) is just posing, which is really the lowliest form of performance.

Look, no one says you have to be Kelly or Taj or Chippa to be a decent surfer. There is honor in merely surfing at your own humble level, enjoying waves, paddling out early and often. There is even honor in admitting you're trying to impress other dudes. To blowing a whole bunch of airs in hopes of someday landing one. That's performance, and that's OK.

However, there is nothing cool or honorable about surfing alone -- unless you don't tell anyone about it.--Nathan Myers