We kinda dig this look at the AC through the lens of surfing…
Ever since I was little, I remember my dad telling me about how cool Scotchman’s was before ‘they’ put in a parking lot and paved the trail down to the beach. In his stories, my dad would leave his car on the side of Pacific Coast Highway, just south of Corona Del Mar in Newport, and then walk about a mile over virgin Californian earth, towards the ocean with his board under his arm. Most of the time when he would arrive on the beach, there wouldn’t be soul in the water. “Its almost like those waves were shaped for long boards” he would say. Now, for fifteen dollars, and a piece of our souls, we park just above the beach and bitch about how the little pieces of rock hurt our feet on the short walk to the sand. Instead of looking out and seeing empty water, my friends and I now see swarms of kids surfing short boards in flashy wetsuits.
The waves are right, but everything else seems to be wrong. Surfing has already transformed from a small and true sport, into some pseudo-lifestyle. Sailing seems to be going through a similar transition. If we draw from the many parallels between sponsored surfing and sailing, we can determine more about the future of our sport.
The America’s Cup used to be the pinnacle of sailing. Blending athleticism, tactical knowledge, and cooperation between sailors, designers, and donors, there was no harder event to win, other than maybe the olympics. There was a point in time when sailing was understood as it was; a real sport. To this day pictures and quotes of JFK watching the racing live on. Despite this, sailing has faded out of prominence, and the general public has come to think of it as a non-sport. Something similar happened to surfing in the late 80’s. People began to think of surfing as something the pot heads did when they skipped class. During this period of disinterest in the sport, surfers enjoyed a high degree of subtlety and empty beaches. Today, in it’s own obscurity, sailing enjoys a level of subtlety and a small and tight knit community of devoted athletes.
In the mid to late 90’s companies like Quicksilver began to develop surfing as a spectator sport. With the country recalling the days of “The Endless Summer,” their interest was sparked on a very superficial level. Sponsors came together and built a professional circuit. Today surfers resent the attention that is brought on by the tour, and feel as if it has done little else than to distract from what surfing really is. It is easy to see from kids riding the same kind of boards pro’s use on 20+’ waves, that their understanding of surfing has been completely shaped by the countless marketing campaigns by ‘surf’ companies. Those people see surfing as little else than an adrenaline fix. Read on.