Once one of our most important metrics, style has largely been slaughtered on the steps of the false-god obelisk, “performance.”
In the 1960s, you were nothing without it. The arrival of the shortboard did little to diminish the import of form—that era’s icons, after all, were dripping. Sometime in the 1980s, things \ changed. By the turn of the millennium, the true stylists (at least those celebrated in our endemic sporting media and within surfing’s Department of Athletics, the ASP/WSL) could be counted on one hand.
One can place blame, of course. But the beauty is that blame doesn’t matter. Fellow surfers will always be stirred by effortless poise. It defines the practice. And it always will. The rootstock is easily traced, its apparent orthodoxy occasionally challenged but never disproved.
Joey Cabell, as seen here at the Trestle in 1964, shows all of the markers: a maritime knowledge of the hull in trim; the sense of “serious play” as coined by his mentors, the Waikiki Beachboys; the restrained sprezzatura of pointbreak cool. View here the antithesis of flash, pop, and try-hard. View here the elemental “us.” No need to light sparklers or draw attention. It’s just surfing.
Photograph by Ron Stoner.