Hopping Mad

Ok, not technically a chop-hop, but close.

Consider the chop-hop, and its presence in the modern surfing lexicon – as puzzling and outmoded as an Amish in South Central. In practice, the move is easy work for today’s skilled surfers, while nearly impossible to a beginner. Functionality rating: zero, as compared to a floater (6 – quite useful) or a cutback (9 – essential in all but the hastiest breaks). The chop-hop has a basic, democratic appeal that rail surfing lacks; every Joe Twelve-Pack likes him a fancy twirl. “The best wavesurfers,” he explains to his wife back in Des Moines, “can jump the board and spin it round like a compass needle.” Like the Neanderthals or Windows Vista, however, the maneuver is an evolutionary misfire, set to expire and be cheerfully forgotten. So just what is the nature of the chop-hop today? Who keeps performing them, and why?

To explore that, let’s consider another, seemingly unrelated question: Why do so many of us tolerate – seek out and show off, really – a little alligator or polo horse on our shirts, or a half-eaten fruit on our tech gadgets? We don’t play polo; nobody plays polo. But logos are our status symbols, like scalps to the Sioux or tails on a peacock. That, in a nutshell, is how a chop-hop works: as a surfing status symbol. This explains why the silly move keeps getting perpetuated, even in spite of a decade’s mockery. A well-executed chop-hop (oxymoron if ever there was one) is a communication of minimal skill: it tells the viewer straightaway, “Whatever else you might think of me and my surfing, I’m at least this good.” Among those anxious to avoid a kook label, the chop-hop might be tempting. This, however, is a false hope of Obamic proportions

The chop-hop smells of desperation. A truly good surfer would never do one, just as the truly wealthy don’t buy Lacoste shirts from a department store. If you rip, you’re not hopping; conversely, if you’re hopping, you must not really rip. Savvy? Furthermore, Susan, you’re clearly trying to fool people into believing you’re better than you are. You’re worse than even your chop-hop would suggest – the jig is up, the cards are tipped, the Hail Mary is picked in the end zone. Ultimately, a chop-hop shows nothing but pathetic insecurity. If I could do one, I totally wouldn’t.

For more from Stuart, visit his blog at http://blog.surfingthemag.com/