We already know that style exists at surfing’s elemental core. Coined by Hawaiian royalty, polished by post-war point-wave surfers. Still in circulation, vivified by a subset of modern primitives. Minimal. Composed under fire.
A live glimpse of form is all one needs to render judgment. The old waddies said they could tell if Phil was out at Church all the way from San Onofre. But frame-by-frame scansion and still photos are instructive.
Take this diminishing-radius wrap by Liam O’Brien. Board twitched out but driving, loose trucks held together by quadriceps and sheer will—a 917 through the Mulsanne Corner at Le Mans. To what end? Feels too late to bring it back around. Going left seems improbable. This, then, is art for art’s sake. Dogged supplication to the twin gods of speed and feeling.
And while we tend to think of “surf style” in the ritualized sense, a ballet blanc of nonchalance and hand jive, we’re reminded that the hydrodynamic interplay of wave, board, and rider is the wellspring of form. That trio calls the shots. Our responses, be they neoclassical or brutalist, are the fruit.
[Feature image by Duncan Macfarlane]