Surfing is for the most part a selfish lifestyle. We prioritise our lives according to swell and weather forecasts, and plan work and family commitments as best we can around our next surf. And when we do go surf, chances are we are abandoning a loved one at home with the kids or leaving a loved one alone on the beach, hiding from the harsh elements in the car for a good few hours. For those few of us who have found surfers as our better halves, life is simpler and relatively fair, until the arrival of children that is. But two of the most selfish surfers in my opinion are the egotistical “boardist” type; surfers who for no apparent reason dislike other wave riders to the point of hatred, and then the seemingly entitled “local” type, who claim aggressive ownership over something that can only truly be acquired by mutual respect and a welcome smile. As always it comes down to the individual and our private interaction with the waves, but as experience has taught me, even a poor surf can become one of our most memorable when we open our hearts and minds, and share the love.
In the year 1779, Lieutenant James King recorded the earliest written account of surfing - “But a diversion the most common is upon the water, where there is a very great sea, and surf breaking on the shore. The men sometimes 20 or 30 go with the swell of the surf….” By the time Captain Cook and his ships reached the Hawaiian Islands in 1778, the art, sport and religion of surfing had reached a sophisticated peak. At this zenith of the sport in Old Polynesia, surfing was celebrated and shared by all. No locals, no bigotry, just a communal sharing of a human art form, both “Paipo” (prone) and “Alaia” (standup).
One of the first surf photographs I ever captured was of an unnamed surfer burning and dropping in on another surfer at New Pier, presumably claiming himself a “local”, and thus beyond respecting his neighbour in the water; I was horrified. Sure share the wave if that was his good-natured intent, but I only saw malicious droplets of saltwater dripping from his angry face. This kind of disrespect is not restricted to any one spot unfortunately, and it is worst at renowned spots like New Pier, Jeffrey’s Bay, Muizenberg, and Longbeach. These are among our most celebrated waves in South Africa, but celebrating good surf invariably brings out the dark side of some of our selfish hearts. I’m ashamed to imagine what this must look like to non-surfers, aspiring to be like us, learning from our actions.
Being a traveling surfer and photographer, I do not subscribe to localism or being a local, regardless how often I may surf any one spot, and I try my best to refrain from judging others. I surf and photograph to celebrate life and the gift of surfing, and I want to share our blessings with the greater surf community, whoever they may be. It is all about respecting our fellow surf riders. Did you know that suggested synonyms for the word local are: “Restricted, limited, confined and narrow”. It most certainly is narrow-minded to think you will never surf another spot other than the one you frequent. How you wish to be received away should be how you engage people at home.
I recently stole a day away from the office and embarked on my very first surf trip in 10 years. Some of you may scoff at such a statement, but it is true. I left all cameras at home, and drove up to Elands Bay with just my wetsuit and board, and the basics for a 24-hour strike mission. As fate would have it, the predicted swell was a no show, and I was understandably gutted. What a waste of precious work time and the hard-to-get surf token from the misses! I decided to paddle out anyway, and joined a fellow surfer up the point for the measly 2-3 foot waves on offer. At that precise moment I had one of two options; smile and engage, or scowl and hassle. The rest they say is history and it turned out to be one of the most memorable surfs I’ve ever had. Not because of a particularly long wave, big snap or cozy barrel, but rather because I left all that selfish egotistical competitiveness on the beach, and celebrated the simple act of sharing waves with others, and ultimately sharing the stoke. This is why I surf, and it will be my mantra for any future sessions, both home and away. Smile and engage!
The success of any surf you have will not be determined by the way you interacted with the wave, but rather by the way you interacted with the people sharing those waves.
"Keep The Faith, Live The Dream"
Grant Twiggy Baker admires the tropical paradise of remote Madagascar from his SUP in SA Paddlers August 2012 Calendar.
A kayak sized sea turtle grazes while paddlers stroke into view while exploring offshore India in this January/February issue of SA Paddler:
Keep The Faith, Live The Dream
I met my three friends in Casablanca in Morocco, the city made famous by the 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
We managed to decipher the Arabic rail timetable and traveled south for 350 km on a jam-packed train, carrying coffin-sized surfboard bags. Our only refuge was the wind-battered space between two carriages.
At the town of Agadir we met up with another friend who works as a surf guide and drove for 1200 km in his 4x4, through the highlands of Morocco and across the invisible border into the disputed territory of Western Sahara. It's one of the least populated places on earth; a landscape at the mercy of ocean tides and the shifting sands of the desert.
Spain claimed this region in 1884 and it was known as Spanish Shara until 1975, when control was relinquished to a joint administration by Morocco and Mauritania. Those two countries went to war, joined by a rebel group representing the nomadic Sahrawi people who sought to proclaim an independent country of their own. In 1979 Mauritania withdrew and territory has been controlled by Morocco ever since, an unhappy situation that persists today.
Little remains of the Spanish occupation besides the occasional fortress in the desert, slowly being swallowed by sand. This particular outpost, near the town of Dakhla, stands naked on a low hill, overlooking some of the most beautiful beaches in the Western Sahara.
We pitched our tents and camped for two weeks. The waves were epic and the scenery surreal, but each day as I jogged down to the beach with my surfboard underarm, I was sad that the freedom I felt wasn't shared by the people of this wild, empty half-country.
There are no easy answers when it comes to politics, but the trip reminded me how fortunate I am to come and go as I please, living my own personal dream.
Keep the Faith, Live the Dream
On a recent journey to the sun-scoured Atlantic coast of Morocco, Alex Knost laid down some unusual lines with the help of this DIY craft. The Californian has been making his own boards for a while now (he's nearing his 100th self-shaped board), and this particular late -'60s/early - '70s-inspired hybrid is a good example of the kind of shaping he's interested in - transitional designs that incorporate positive elements from different eras. And while riding inconsistent hand-shapes from an inexperienced shaper makes getting consistently god boards infinitely tougher, Knost doesn't seem to mind. "There's no reason I should ride consistent boards," he laughs. "Making my own boards has helped me learn to be more connected. I'm not sure if it makes me surf better, but it certainly makes it more interesting." - Photo caption by Surfer Magazine
Keep The Faith, Live The Dream