On Style

Light / Dark

Authentic style cannot be a mere amalgamation of what others have done before, collected like tear sheets from a 70s surf mag and summoned for the occasion like some self-conscious dab. 

A surer route to an original manifestation comes through what novelist James Salter called “the press of affairs.” It’s a quiet celebration of what the wave has thrown at you. It might be ecstatic. It could be restrained. But odds are it’s not a soul arch, a hands-clasped-behind-the-back tube stance, or a blasé nose pose.

Those former are occasions when the duende is summoned. When one is overcome by the moment—surrender, disaster narrowly averted, or overwhelming stoke. It’s an eyes-rolled-back, not-so-vague sexual response. A little death. 

In the realm of Spanish flamenco (both dance and music), duende refers to a heightened sense of emotive expression—an expression of pure feeling, and thereby utterly authentic. Duende comes from the id, and there is an undercurrent of darkness. Like the sea. 

Might that be the key to surfing’s resonance, its inability to be simply filed under some banal “fun” category? Or maybe it’s this: In the act of surfing, the purest notes you can play could not have been played by anyone else. It just blows through you.