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Extreme tight-stanced surfing flies in the face of athletics. It speaks to dance, ritual, death in the afternoon. 

A squared-up boxing stance is surfing’s standard. Think Mike Tyson’s (cribbed from Floyd Patterson) crouch technique: bent, coiled, set to unleash something explosive.

The tight, closed stance is different. It’s a pose of insolence. It dares any errant rib of wave face to unhorse the surfer. It creates visual tension between the rider, the board, and the dynamics of the pocket. In that moment, the surfer acquiesces, bending to pure feeling and aesthetics. 

Historic antecedents abound. Blackie Makaena on a Hot Curl in 1950. Lance Carson’s “ham sandwich” at First Point in 1964. Owl Chapman at Maalaea in 1975. 

Today, one finds closed-stance homages almost everywhere “alternative” surfboards are ridden, though Mason Ho, God bless him, isn’t afraid to rhumba mid-floater on a thruster. That’s just Mason saying that while he might be “progressive,” there’s also a time to be a lover, not a fighter.

[Feature image: Tanner Prairie by Julien Roubinet]