For sequenced photo highlights and inspiring words continue reading below…
Surfing: Is it a way of life or is it a feeling? Is it art? A personal expression? Or is it just a fun way to keep fit? Is it a competitive and exciting sport or is it more about soul-searching? Is it an extreme sport or is it just a hobby?
Surfing is probably all of the above, but each person will likely have a different answer depending on their perspective. It all depends on where you’re coming from. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, every person has their own individual idea of what is good for them and what they do.
These thoughts idly toyed with my sun-drenched brain as I sat chatting to Llewellyn Whittaker at the point in Mossel Bay on Sunday 30th October 2011. We were waiting for the official results of the Rip Curl Grom Search 2011 Mossel Bay to be announced. As we sat waiting, we spoke about all the hot surfers at this event, many of whom are coached by Llewellyn, and the conversation drifted towards the 2011 ISA World Junior Games and how Dylan Lightfoot was controversially denied winning the U16 title in Peru. His opponent in the final, Filipe Toledo, caught a last-minute wave and ended up just making the score with seconds on the clock.
It then occurred to me, just as it has done many times before, that you will never be able to really judge and compare two waves in a tight situation. Just like you will never be able to identify exactly what surfing means to all surfers.
Sometimes it is obvious that two surfers are on an entirely different level and sometimes it is obvious that two equally good surfers are having very different days in the water. Those heats are easy to judge; there is no pressure and the winner is obvious.
However, in those tight heats, when waves ridden are very similar and surfers are equally good, who is to say which wave is really better?
Llewellyn made a very good point. He said that everyone has their own idea of what is good. His words struck a chord with me, as it will do with many people. Although this line of thought is generally accepted as obvious, it is not always thought about and applied when the situations present themselves. If everyone has their own idea of what is ‘good’, it basically means that when heats are really really tight, the real winner will always remain a mystery, because if there were different judges, the results might have been different.
It is only in obvious heats, where levels of skill are very different, that winners are definite. And even then, who is to say that just because one surfer does high risk manoeuvres, he deserves to win? At the end of the day, what do we really look for when we watch and judge surfing? We want to see surfing that looks good. And, no matter the precision of your judging criteria, what ‘looks good’ will always come down to personal opinion.
Anyhow. Surfing events have a unique ability to create amazing atmospheres. There are very few other types of sporting events that can combine the laid-back vibe of a beach lifestyle with the excitement of a performance sport like surfing. And the Rip Curl Grom Search Mossel Bay was a great event with an amazing atmosphere! It was inspiring to see so many young kids surf with such commitment and enthusiasm! We brought The Surfer Kids along on Saturday and they were thoroughly impressed with what they witnessed. We returned on the Sunday to take some epic photos and we share them here with you as generous gift!
However, before you look at these amazing photos, taken by our very own Unravel Surf Travel Photographer, Jenya Zhivaleva, I would like to leave you with a simple thought.
Surfing is ART. Think about that famously clichéd line that says “the wave is my canvas and my surfboard the paintbrush with which I paint on it…” well, clichés are clichés because they contain some truth, however, a cliché is also a cliché because the truth that it contains is probably misunderstood…
When you say ‘ART’ people tend to think of fine art, such as classic paintings. A finished painting is just a single piece of art. No-one would think that one single painting represents ALL fine art.
Yes, Surfing is ART, but this particular art cannot be divided up into individual pieces. Surfing is more like music, or dance. It involves continuous movement through space and time.
Don’t be fooled when looking at these beautiful surfing photos. (Thanks to Jenya!) Don’t look at any one of these photos and think “This is the art of surfing”, because it isn’t. What you are looking at is not the art of surfing, but the fine art of photography.
If we think in terms of individual waves ridden by a surfer, then perhaps we come closer to finding individual works of Surfing Art. But, once the surfer kicks out the back of the wave, that piece of art is finished and it will never exist again. Photographic recording is just that, a recording of the work of art, but a photo (or video) is not the Surfing artwork itself, because the Surfing artwork no longer exists. As a movement through time, a Surfing Artwork inevitably always comes to an end. Like all individual life forms do.
The point of all this is to make you think about Surfing. Surfing, whatever it is, is special. Like life itself, surfing is also momentary. It is always unique. Like Art, Surfing cannot be compared to anything other than itself. And that should make you think about life. Because the same principles apply.
You can never really compare any one person to another.
Everyone has their own idea of what is good. Everyone has their own idea of what is beautiful. We shouldn’t jump onto a high horse when we don’t agree with someone else because at the end of the day it all comes down to personal opinion. Each individual is unique and no matter how many rules we make or facts we discover, until we learn to respectfully treat each person as an individual, without judgement or comparison, we will struggle to a united voice.
Yours in Surfing, Love and Life
Unravel Surf Travel