Turning Surfers into Robots
The Surf Nomad was watching the Billabong Pro at Chopes a couple of months ago and one of our favourite heats was the semi final between Kelly Slater and John John Florence. Watching two surfers separated in age by 21 years trading blows for 45 minutes only to end up with scores tied at 19.77 points was incredible. As a viewer it would be difficult to argue that competitive surfing is not as refined as it could possibly be. The ASP has sought out the most machine like waves in the world. The boards are machine shaped in order to avoid performance compromising deviations. Surfers perfect manoeuvres tailored to meet the judges criteria for each location to the point where they themselves are almost machines.
Are Kelly Slater and 2 Johns Robots? You be the judge
As exciting as it can be to watch a closely pitted battle between two surfers of such distinction we at The Surf Nomad couldn’t help but feel that something has gone horribly wrong. How can it be that the oldest guy on the tour and the youngest guy in the tour surf so similarly? When The Surf Nomad was a grommet this never would have happened. The old guard always gave way to the new guard it was as simple as that. Lopez, Nat Young (the old one) and MP gave way to PT, Rabbit, Shaun Thompson and Simon Anderson who in turn handed over to to MR who passed the torch on to TC and Cheyne. Tom Curren took over from them and he was ultimately surpassed by Kelly Slater who has handed the mantle over to …well… nobody.
Back in the day
The following video is taken from the Coca Cola Surfabout competition held in Sydney, Australia back in 1983. In the first couple of minutes there is a sequence of MR, Tommy Carroll, Shaun Thompson, Cheyne, Rabbit and Dane Kealoha edited back to back so you can clearly see the differences between each of their styles. Watching a sequence of todays pros edited in a similar fashion The Surf Nomad reckons you would be hard pressed to tell who was who. It is like someone took a sample of Slater DNA back in the 90’s and has been punching out clones ever since.
Evolution takes a holiday
So what the hell is going on? Is Kelly Slater is a super human robot? Are the current crop of hopefuls all Cloned from his DNA? Or is it simply that the equipment they use has barely changed in almost 30 years. When Simon Anderson invented the Thruster back in 1980 everyone jumped on them and there have not really been many significant advances on that shape or on that fin configuration since. It’s as if the evolution of surfing stopped there and never restarted.
Ok thankfully there are some shapers out there exploring different and interesting boards in an attempt to evolve beyond the squash tail thruster. Good examples are Daniel Tomo with his modern planing hulls and Ryan Burch with his asymmetrical shapes but nobody on the tour is really pulling anything new out of the bag.
So why is it that the equipment of Surfing’s elite is frozen in 1983? The Surf Nomad suspects that the judging in competitive surfing has become so mechanical that the pros are afraid to try something different. Judges are tuned into certain performance markers for each given location. If you can’t hit those buttons then you don’t get through your heat. It’s a bit like women’s gymnastics, you get scored on how well you perform a set series of tricks if you miss a trick then you fail.
Help us save the future of surfing
At The Surf Nomad we don’t give a shit what other people say about how many airs we boost or whatever. We can get out and glide on a single fin, speed jam on a twinny, power slide a quad or cruise on a log it’s all about what feels good to us and we are committed to that ethos.
The Surf Nomad believes that it is our right, nay our duty, to stop the attack of the clones and we call upon you to help us.
Experiment, change it up, get dialled in on something weird and wonderful.
Only we can save the future.