Surfers. The mere utterance of the word will conjure up images of bronzed chaps strutting about sun drenched beaches, wispy blonde hair blowing in the breeze, wetsuit over shoulder and board under arm. For some there may be an added visual of tropical, palm fringed beaches in the mix, while others may include cliché VW camper vans chugging lazily along promenades, reggae ‘choons’ emitting from inside.
Come sunset campfire embers glow in the dusky light and the occasional herbal cigarette is passed between the group. Girls giggle while boys swig beery suds and the whole scenario is one of contentment, happiness and fun.
While the above is a nice image the fact is these days surfing just isn’t this way at all – no matter what the marketing gurus will tell you. It’s a sad state of affairs but to be a surfer, and a regular dipper at that, you’ll need some wonga in the bank. Surfboards alone don’t come cheap and then there’s the addition of actually getting to the coast and hitting up waves. Fuel costs and you’ll need provisions when you’re there. Wetsuits, accommodation (most prefer not to rough it these days) and a whole bunch of other necessities require a decent amount of green.
(Illustration by T)
It’s a depressing thought to bring such a perceived free spirited activity down to the hard reality of monetary value. But it’s something you can’t shy away from. With this in mind most surfers, who are actively involved in the sport, will be of a certain age – usually the middle tier of an average life span. It’s usually taken this long to acquire the fundage to support surfing’s habit. If it’s kids were talking about then mostly parents (see above demographic description) will be supporting their groms and allowing them to indulge.
In the UK the biggest group of wave riders can be found inland, away from coasts – there’s a reason for this. To earn enough cash, and have disposable income left over to pay for recreational activities, a job will be needed. Unfortunately (another sad fact) is most well-paying jobs aren’t located in coastal areas. Towns and cities are where you’ll find the majority of employment opportunities, hence why surfers are required to travel. And we’re pretty sure that as part of the corporate massive swanning around offices, dressed in boardshorts and tees, will be frowned upon.
So what does this actually mean? Well, in one instance surfers these days are actually just like you and me. Broisms and shaka throws are what the surfing industry like to broadcast as standard, when in practice you’d be hard pressed to spot a surfer walking along your street.
Even on non-work days fashion has crossed over from the underground to the high street and what were once exclusive threads are now everyday styles that people from all walks of life wear. No longer is donning your Quiksilver tee a sign of membership to surfing’s tribe – especially when matey next door (who’s never been near a ripple, let alone a wave) wears the same gear.
And this is a bad thing? Not at all. While some will lament the loss of ‘the surfer’ the fact is there wouldn’t be an industry left if we had to rely on those kinds of stereotype. Purists may baulk at the fact there’s a need to pump cash back in, via hardwear and soft good sales, but that at least allows those who do ride waves to have opportunity to use the right kit for purpose.
Surfers these days are simply normal people who happen to chuck themselves in
the drink every so often. If you’ve never tried then then now’s your chance, after all, you too are normal and if he/she down the street can do it then so can you…