Firing back into the past, forward into the future.

Light / Dark

So, what is it?

Hey really… for starters I don’t even know what surfing is. Like, where does snagging a free ride leave off and “working” (jerking the board all over the place to impress friends, overweight judges and girls who might be watching from the beach) begin?

My idea of a true surfer is a guy with practically no muscles: A pure loafer who, with the least possible stuff, using the fewest possible motions, times it all perfectly, and lives a super-exciting life, just barely squeaking through it all, unscathed—no alimony payments, no constant goddamn complaining about how he is a victim (soup riding) and no built up treasures (fat, from riding in the flat for too long).

Meanwhile, this greatest surfer would be living the fullest life in all respects—income, the good things of life, raising kids, contributing to society etc.—and not necessarily be particularly recognized for his or her skill… though it would not hurt.

So, this is one thing still in store for surfing—to produce some few real surfers.

Consultation is essential to good surfing.

Now, to continue to probe the future, I ask my kids: “Big glassy indoor waves,” answers 12-year-old, Matt.

“Night surfing with a lot of added phosphorescents so the water really shows each wave,” says Sky, 16.

Well, hey, that sounds like fun! Then, two days later, I open the new issue of Surfer magazine (‘Big Time,’ December ’91 ) and there on page 31 is an article on some guy named Lochtefeld’s new wave machine, in New Braunfels, Texas, of all places, producing a tubing comber which is already big enough to get inside! So with that much progress in just two days, all I can figure is I better get on with the writing lest I be left in the dust by reality!

As is so often the case today whenever we contemplate the future, we must make a distinction: Are we imagining science fiction or are we actually probing into the coming reality proceeding as it does in the most straightforward way following directly from what’s already gone before? To see if we can get some kind of true view of the future we must first look around at what’s actually here now, and think about how it came to be.

Man the hunter.

Maybe it’s some kind of spiritual tree of activities involving catching free rides? Or is it just a branch of some larger tree, the boughs of which are the likes of soaring and sailing, and whose trunk is hunting and eating? After all, is there such a big difference between chasing after a wave to rip and slash, and running down an animal to chop and gobble?

Branching out…

In any case, somewhere back there on our limb of history’s tree were the pleasant experiences that first opened up the possibilities of surfing. Guys coming in from fishing, for example, gliding with the waves in their canoes for a change, and feeling, “Ugga bugga! What ever that was, I like!”

Well, at some place along the line, perhaps in Hawaii, experimentation broadened from just fiddling around in the ocean on some piece of wood to keeping and then fixing up “my plank”—smashing away twigs and rounding off corners for a better shape. Later, painful slivers and annoying water absorption led to additional shape refinements, and paints and varnishes.

Early on the technique went from struggling-just-to-hold-on, to majestic-standing—surfing straight in with occasional accidental angling. In time the angling led to banking, and more angling, which created a desire to go further and faster by angling more and more often. Thus surfboard tails, weight, and overall shape started getting some real design attention. Shuffling back and forth on the board was combined with leaning from side to side and instinctive hopping up and down and, eventually, trimming forward to recapture fleeting waves. In fact, moving about even more than was necessary became kinda hot stuff

Soon new surfing spots were being discovered and explored, and board length became an issue. Both longer and shorter koa, and other native wood boards were explored. All of this evolved by (let’s call it) 1930 into the ‘modern,’ imported, redwood hot curl board.

(NOTE: I’m making no claim to the factuality of any of this, just thinking out loud so as to get at the stated objective where we are headed!)

From 1930 to 1953, advances in materials, shape and riding techniques came fast and furious. Sprinting historically through hollow paddle boards, varnished balsa laminated to the redwood for lightness, the addition of skegs, Simmons’ early experiments with foam and coated plywood sandwich construction, we then temporarily settled in for 6 or 7 years with what seemed to be “it”—the balsa/fiberglass surfboard.

Meanwhile the 16 mm motion picture camera was invented and home movies of surfing evolved via Bud Browne and Warren Miller. Then Velzy, (may my life be a sacrifice in his service) though he wasn’t making all that much money manufacturing surfboards, sponsored Bruce Brown to make an entire movie about surfing. Surfboard manufacturing became a mini industry with limited but definite worldwide distribution.

With these design and material advancements and now the slimmest chance of getting in front of someone’s camera and appearing on film, the technique of surfing also forged ahead, led by the main “actors” of the era, Dora, Edwards, Muñoz & Weber (in alphabetical order). Power turns, right-go-lefts, performance cutbacks, kick-outs, glide-outs, fly-outs, island pullouts, standing island pull-outs, and nose-riding became everyday occurrences.

Then, circa 1952-56, via initial efforts by Dave Sweet and actor Cliff Robertson (and months or years later, Hobie Alter and Gordon Clark) true foam/fiberglass boards came into being. (Peter Lindeman’s 15 pound honeycomb surfboard was laughed out of the water because it was “too light” and “corky.”)

During the late 50s and early 60s came a boom in surf movies (Miller, Bud Browne, Greg Noll, John Severson, Grant Rohloff, Dale Davis, Don Brown, Walt Philips, Bruce Brown). By ’59 surfing had hit the big time with the first feature length Hollywood movie, Gidget, featuring surfing as something of a lifestyle.

Another big leap came in 1960 when John Severson created Surfer Magazine.

Also in 1964 came the truly revolutionary idea of just going surfing, month after month, all around the world, in an Endless Summer. The concept was introduced by Bruce Brown in his landmark film, and the hunt for new and exciting places to surf began anew.

Before World War II (1940) only a few real pioneers like Duke Kahanamoku took surfing anywhere; i.e. Australia and the Mainland. But after the war (1945), traveling surfers opened up plenty of new areas throughout the world. Still, no one had even surfed places like France, with its many powerful swells and popular beaches, until 1956! And it would be another 20 years before places like Indonesia were discovered.

Speaking of travel, a huge improvement in body surfing occurred (and who knows when or where bodysurfing started) sometime in the 40s when, from an early trip to Tahiti, Owen Churchill brought back a palm frond swim-fin design which his buddy Bob Johnson then reproduced in molded rubber.

For easier shipping and practical travel, “suitcase surfboards” and removable skeg systems soon came into being, The Morey TRAF (that’s ‘fart’ spelled backwards) Fin System arrived in 1964. This now was an actual manufacturing system refined from the original wood box and wood fin method reportedly created by George Downing in Hawaii. Removable skegs (first given meaning through in-depth exploration by Kenny Price at Malibu) then fostered wide scale experimentation with skeg design. This in turn greatly influenced both surfboard design and surfing technique.

Visions of summers past: Morey (In front next to the Bell sisters) and crew at Oak Street, Laguna Beach, 4th of July, summer ’53. That’s Hobie shaping on the balsa redwood, an infant “Brother” Tomkins nursing on mom’s lap, young Ron Sizemore standing behind Tom’s left, and Dick Saunders holding Tom’s bitchin’ wooden streamliner at right.

Also during this same period (mid 50s to mid 60s) technology further impacted surfing as rubber ‘vulcanizing’ brought about the inflatable rubber air mattress for sleeping and was soon adapted to surfing as the ‘surf mat.’ With their obvious potential for fun but terrible shape, surf mats were widely available for rent at California beaches, thereby introducing tens of thousands of people to the idea of surfing.

Also, a lot of kids had “belly boards” 3/8″ plywood shapes used for both skimming and surfing. Then in 1971, as the direct result of the availability of new materials (close-celled, flexible foam) and the generally poor shape of surf mats, the first Morey Boogie board was created.

In the early 50s the first modern surf contest was held at Brooks Street in Laguna Beach, California (it’s still going—the oldest in existence). Although it might have seemed new and exciting at the time, perhaps it was really just part of the continuum. It is reported, after all, that the ancient Hawaiian kings surfed competitively for land, wives and lives.

The first objective professional surfing contest was held by the author, timing nose riding, in 1965. The purse was $1,500. As a result of painting the noses brightly so that the judges could clearly see to time how long a contestant spent up there, Bill Hubina and Bill Delaney (yes, the same Delaney who produced the film Surfers) invented Slipcheck. Slipcheck, of course, was nothing more than the paint used by the street department of your local town to paint yellow lines. But, by luck, this particular kind of paint, when sprayed, gave an unusual texture that provided traction when wet. Although the author covered the entire deck of his board with pool table fabric around 1960 (great traction but what a rash!), the real invention of traction material on the deck (as opposed to paint) didn’t come till 1977 when Jim Van Vleck came up with a rubberous membrane of non-skid material and got together with Herbie Fletcher to develop and market Astrodeck.

In 1963 the first truly “surfable,” commercially produced skateboard emerged from Larry Stevensons’ Makaha International. With it came a whole new approach to riding gravity. Skateboarders, taking their cue from surfers and skaters and skiers, developed a flock of new subtleties, not the least of which was “pumping” the board from side to side—and so developing actual forward thrust. It was not long after that the first type of snowboard was invented, strapped to the feet, and most of skateboarding’s technique was incorporated. Today, of course, the snowboard has become an entire additional bough on the metaphorical tree. Again, another phenomenal trip that took place through materials, shape and technology.

As a result of the skateboarders’ needs for greater traction, polyurethane skateboard wheels were developed. This in turn also led to the making of better roller skates and now the inline phenomena.

Kick was added to the skateboard tail, and later to the nose. As a result, the guys are now hopping, skipping, spinning in the air, going up and down stairs, and grinding curbs, railings, park benches etc.—each thing encouraging the mind to consider use of air as part of technique.

Air lubrication was introduced to the surfboard itself via channels and concaves.

It’s all just kids playing leapfrog, each development feeding the next. Through it, an entire rainbow of surfing activities has evolved.

Around 1967, for example, the trio of John Drake, and Hoyle and Diane Schweitzer popularized windsurfing (sailboarding) by inventing the “wishbone” boom and universal mast joint. Since then sailboards, sails and maneuvers have changed at such an incredible rate that every innovator and manufacturer (including Schweitzer) has been left panting in the dust, many bankrupt, as though wiped out by this same wind that drove them.

Starting most certainly in 1966 as a direct result of Nat Young winning the World Title on a 9’4″ board (which everyone knew was way too small for the big man), surfboards began shrinking considerably. Even though Rabbit Kekai claims he had been riding a seven-foot-something board in the 40s and I saw Greg Noll on a five or six-foot board in the 50s, and Velzy was making his 7’11” bump boards in the early 60s, this slight reduction in size by Nat really triggered the short board era. A small branch of surfing’s tree at first, it has now become the main bough. What to me is a normal size board slipped into minority usage and is now known as “the longboard.”

Speeding on…

So by now you see the problem. To really get at the future we need clearly to see the past. Yet the scene is only now coming slightly into focus because it is such a HUGE PICTURE involving hundreds of innovations and millions of people. This has been one heck of an accelerated advancement in just this past few decades—most of it in every reader’s lifetime—and far too much to cover with any degree of adequacy in an article of this size. So I will continue, yet limit the view to only a touch here and there, mentioning simply key developments.

Imagine early surfing on inner tubes, and cheap styrene bead boards, and how this merged with better materials to become boogie boarding.

Imagine kayaks, now surfed, with their design modified as surf skis.

The twig of waterskiing with surfboards on flat days became a whole branch of surfing—‘Skurfing.’ In fact, the fruit of waterskiing skis in the surf has still not ripened. I once saw Hobie (again), towed by his father’s boat, rip all up and down the Oak Street/Thalia Street (Laguna Beach) surfing lineup: the boat just outside the break, Hobie climbing and dropping, waterskiing in and out, jumping up and over waves just inside of the breaking swells. Pure fun! I’d like to see that done at Sunset Beach.

Later, just for the (Guinness) record, Hobie wake-surfed a 12′ tandem board (and was pictured drinking a cup of coffee) all the way to Catalina Island from San Pedro––26 miles!

By this time new stuff seemed to be coming up every few weeks, and somewhere in there, Rodney Sumpter first surfed tidal bores on the River Severn in England.

As a result of some of all this fiddlin’ and foolin’ the idea dawned of surfing as a kind of generic way of doing things and spread just a little into other realms. The most classic example was how surfers in Volkswagen bugs and vans began surfing air wakes behind trucks now known as slip-streaming, a solid and accepted part of auto racing, 

and on…

Then also there were/are/was/is:

The early motorized surfboard, and modern versions that do 30 or 40 knots.

The motorized skateboard.

The “Malibu” surfboard developed by Jerry Williamson molded aluminum stringer, molded polyethylene skeg, both inserted from the rear into an expanded styrene bead pop out (about 1962). The thing never worked well or sold well, but looking back it was not only a big inspiration for the molded removable fin system, it was also the precursor for the Morey Doyle Soft Surfboard (created by Doyle) in 1975.

The new Trax dirt wheels just out for skateboards make it possible to effectively skateboard down hills like skiing in the summer.

The development of jet ski surfing at the likes of Outside Banzai, Waimea and Avalanche during just the past five years. Towing surfers into waves with jet skis, and rescues with jet skis using specialized, towed boogie boards.

Boogie board surfing of standing waves in the Waimea River mouth followed by surfing of waves in the Snake River, followed (or led?) by the charting and surfing by kayakers of hundreds of breaks in scores of rivers throughout the world.

Catamaran surfing Sunset Beach. Wave sailing Backyards and Hookipa.

Tandem surfing.

Jamie Budge combining the sail with the skateboard.

Arnold de Rosnay then combining sail with modified skateboard and crossing the Sahara!

Snowboarders finally conquer sand dune surfing using well-waxed snowboards. Consider also those first adventuring sky divers who rode those first minutes down through the clouds on boogie boards…followed now by the true skysurfers who crank, flip, slide and roll their zigfangos loose on snowboards before opening their chutes!

And if that has not been enough, then came the artificial waves! Appearing first in test tanks, and then at Big Surf in Tempe, Arizona, you can now ride artificial waves at some dozen locations in the North America, including Typhoon Lagoon at Disney World, Cincinatti Surf in Ohio, Big Surf in Palm Springs and the Edmonton shopping mall in Canada! Temporarily, last and least, let us not forget “finger surfing,” developed 15 years ago by Brant Page. Brant and an elite bunch of Big Island (Hawaii, Hawaii) buddies use 4″-9″ long, custom-made miniature surfboards which they surf in lakes, pools and rivers using their fingers! (And yes, they use a tiny leash attached to one of their digits.) Seriously, finger surfing is reportedly a rush. Once your consciousness is down there doin’ it, you are just as stoked as if doing the real deal. 

…To be here now.

Today at least one guy (Mike Stewart) has gained world acclaim riding “the sponge.” Flat bottomed PE and ARCEL foam boogie boards are less than four feet in length but wide, thick and blunt-nosed. Skegless boogie boards weigh in at three to five pounds, yet supply as much flotation as a regular shortboard. A handful of boogie boarders have become world class stand-up surfers on these things, executing controlled power turns, aerials and tube rides, plus they also regularly pull off 360s and El Rollos.

Advanced surfers are starting to fly, twisting and turning in the air. Furthermore they are using air for lubrication-pumping it under the bottom with skateboarder moves. And certain shortboard riders (like Christian Fletcher and Matt Archbold) are making practical use of this maneuver such as vaulting rocks in the lineup.

The advanced sailboarders are really flying, and performing acrobatics, as are the hotter skateboarders and skimboarders. The leading edge of each of these sports is influencing the equipment toward lightness and maneuverability. “Getting air” is currently the rage in all branches of the gravity sports tree. And even in stuff like motorcycle riding, it seems we all are experimenting to break free from the drag of the everyday. Interesting here is to note that one guy (whose name has slipped my files) contacted me 5 years ago explaining that he was shaping miniature surfboards from lightweight foam, adding a balsa stringer, and weighting the nose. Then he would sail them off the cliff at Black’s. In other words, he claims the surfboard is another type of generic flying shape—no wings needed.

Consider this: About 15 years ago, the late Jon Bobinski created U.S. Squids, the first suction cup soled shoes. They worked great, but bombed—too difficult to produce back then. Also, the aerial maneuver had not then been conceived as achievable. Today, a dozen companies make “pool shoes” and we find Laird Hamilton, with Velcro soles, attempting and reportedly occasionally completing full aerial loops! That is, Laird kicks out, leaves the wave with his board, somersaults 360° around his longitudinal axis and returns to the wave on his feet! And Joel de Rosnay of France has patented, and intends to market, suction cup soled booties. 

Elbow to elbow, rail to rail.

This is the other major factor affecting the future…your future, both immediate and long-term.

The pressure of increased population is reaching your daily life. The world population increase over the past 10 years of one billion people computes as an increase of 274,000 more people on the planet each and every day! And this rate is increasing. To get a better feel for what an extra 275,000 people a day means, it’s like a city the size of Los Angeles (call it 9,000,000) coming into being once a month!

“But this is spread out over the whole world,” you might say, “So no big deal.” Well, no. Remember, no matter where it starts the pressure causes those who can afford it to eventually move from doomed inland locations to where its bitchin’. Then there they are, with a fishing pole in the sand, directly in front of you. And there they are again as part of the movement for replacing your local point break with a marina. And there are their kids, out in the lineup of course, riding boogie boards (sorry about that).

No, rather than being least affected as a surfer, you are perhaps among the most affected, because the population worldwide is now on the move. And they are going to move to where it is better to live, not worse. They can see with their own eyes on TV how groovy it is where you already are and even the semi-wealthy now know enough to scramble first to the best places so as to buy up the property, and enjoy the good years before the rest of the kooks arrive, then sell to them at inflated prices and move on, i.e. Southern California to Cabo to Costa Rica. (This is real estate surfing, right?)

You know, AIDS (…one of nature’s reactions?) came into being and is reducing the population in its own way. And countries which were necessary 500 years ago, came into being in their time and are now disintegrating.

Meanwhile, surf contests have gone from just plain laughable, to big money and laughable.

I just spent a week in Biarritz watching 50,000 people watch the world’s finest rip-and-tear two foot beach break. It was the Arena something or other, with the French National aerobatic jet squadron tango-buzzing the beach upside down and inside out, and topless women every 10 feet (or, embarrassingly, closer). It was a circus. And it was boring. Least interesting was watching jerky little all-the-same-style turns and counter turns that someone somewhere in a booth was actually judging for quality. (I’d rather watch milk weed grow.) It’s up to you!

All I can really do is make a few meek predictions and tell you what I am going to do about the future; both dealing with it and attempting to make it happen the way I want. Also, mentioning a few things I’d like to see happen.

But as far as telling you what the future holds for you, well, to the greatest extent it’s up to you to figure out and sway your way. 

Breaking free.

Personally, I am going to market slick-coated, internally re-enforced, springy ARCEL type boards in the 4′-12′ range, targeting the surfers who are primarily interested in surfing the wave rather than the board. And some few (willing to break ranks with their peers) who are interested in exploring ‘hot curl’ stand-up riding without skegs.

I am going to build myself a 7′ lightweight, a 10′ heavyweight and a 12′ torpedo, the latter just for the sheer joy of paddling, easy gliding and surfing for seconds before the short board guys even turn around to take off.

In my quiver I would also like to have three sizes of remote control surfboards; two foot, six foot and 18 foot with limp, yet life-like dummy robots riding. I would love to sit on the beach and send out my mechanical alter ego to mix it up with the real you.

Recently, in Biarritz, I autographed 100 Morey Boogie posters a day for five days. On each I would write the likes of, “SURF LIFE! Every sweet second!” Writing this phrase 500 times changed my life. So now I am taking my own advice seriously. I plan to continue to enjoy every minute of my own surfing with no thought of whether I am doing it best, better, or even good with respect to anything or anybody except me and the particular wave with which I am involved. I’m going to attempt to get into clean salt water as much as possible, exercising and enjoying myself, while still making a living. 

Visions of summers past: Morey in trim at Malibu, summer ’61.

Meanwhile some examples to follow…

Perhaps you think of yourself as modern. But in an infinitely old universe, we are just in a phase; possibly on a backwards planet, although I suspect it’s just an embryonic period. Yet, even here, there are fully developed, magnificent, ancient examples to follow. What each seems to teach is that life is to live not to think about and/or account for


• The dolphins ride thousands of boat waves daily, and are occasionally seen showing off at the local break. 

• Soaring effortlessly above a hundred thousand hills are

the hawks. 

• Buzzards circle gracefully above ten thousand dying animals. 

• Hovering just below the clouds (some of them even asleep!) are the frigates, patiently waiting to dive bomb for their next free meal that they will steal from the beaks of seagulls 1500 feet below. 

But first, who are you?

Well, first off, how much mind-lock still binds you?

Are you a shortboarder who sees the awkward, ritualistic thrashing of the “pros” as superior stuff?

Are you among the very best stand up boogie riders but do not enter shortboard surfing contests because you are afraid to lose?

Are you a skimboarder who doesn’t recognize how his tool also works great as a surf craft, with or without swim fins; surfed either prone, or as Keith Sasakai rides, dropped knee, or bare foot? Did you ever consider paddling into a wave on it? Or launching off the deck of a longboard as a second stage? Are you some sort of traditionalist who thinks it’s not cool to try out the new stuff like aerials and other ground breaking techniques?

Do you think that “longboarding” is 9′-10′? Well Skip Frye doesn’t. He is enjoying many wonderful days, outriding most everyone on his 11′-12′ cruiser.

Do you still think of what we do as sport—the sport of surfing, formally the sport of Hawaiian kings? Or do you realize that what you are doing is much, much more? Do you recognize that just going out there and riding a few waves now and then is vitally important to the well being of the planet because of how the activity transforms you personally, and the sort of example you become as a result?

But of equal or greater importance is this whole surfing, soaring, sailing, skiing, skateboarding, gravity sport thing which is still spreading like crazy and capturing an ever increasing segment of everyones’ attention.

We surfers, and all the other branches of the gravity sports tree, are what could be called “Free Lunchers” in a world which systematically is being taught that there is no such thing. The old order, the existing yet collapsing, desperately clinging system, continues to hammer that you should just settle down and become a good little patriotic taxpayer.

Yes, by contrast, we are a huge, disorganized, yet closely related tribe of “spongers,” who become instant friends upon meeting anywhere away from the most dense fields of battle. We are the tribe that consists of surfers and skiers, skateboarders, soar gliders and other kinds of free riders. We are a huge new, unstoppable culture numbering worldwide in the scores of millions—collectively bigger than several supposedly well known, major world religions. We have a different attitude and we don’t really give a shit about any country, any international borders, any political system, as long as it is at least tolerable. And so we, of course, are each headed for trouble. But then so are the countries, going belly up faster than you can keep track. So again, it is a type of race with the collapsing curl. You slide and glide while society threatens and insists on how you gotta pay and have a regular job because there is “no free lunch.” But every bird in reality is telling you, “Naw, look…take your cue from us and just surf a lot…and catch and eat your own fish.”

Because remember, life is ALL a free lunch. You didn’t make your body or mind, they were given. As was your education, and, as have been all the choices made by the particular combination of the tiny corner of the universe which is you. You may look like (and even believe) you are working (when you do), but actually what’s going on is that the social-physical-psychiatric-electrical-astrological chemistry of all of these elements is just happening on its own. You are a semi-conductor being, turning through the Earth’s permanent magnetic field at an average of say 800 miles per hour, and electricity flows from and through you causing all these thoughts and all this stuff that is just taking place in and around you. You’re no more responsible and accountable for any of this and no more important than a seal stealing salmon from a drift net. The only things which make you responsible and accountable (and a certain amount is necessary, don’t get me wrong) is what you hear and then believe to be true. 

A lesson from Rabbit Kekai.

I can only hope…and predict perhaps a tiny part of my future, not that of the whole sport.

Hot modern surfing began in the 40s with Rabbit Kekai noseriding “hot curl boards,” short redwood boards with steep V bottomed tails. As far as I’m concerned, Rabbit is the Godfather of modern surfing. Well, about a month ago I spent a week surfing every day with this guy—Hawaii’s most famous beach boy.

Interested in everything and interesting in every way, the guy was, and is, the all-time live wire and hot surfing example, At 71 years of age! Yeah, no shit. I’m not patronizing, you can ask the other guys who were there; Bruce Brown, Dora, Muñoz, Bing, LJ Richards, Yater, Bigler etc. Was this guy something or what? Again, not “hot for a 71-year-old fogie,” but just plain HOT! I learned a big lesson from Rabbit when he told me: “Tom, I don’t have any particular religious philosophy or li’ dat: I just get in the ocean a lot!”

So, I figure that if I restructure my life, get the @%^&* out of Seattle and combine what else I’ve found that works, plus what else will be developed, plus the Rabbit formula, hey, I’m gonna live a long life and have a bitchin’ time!

What else is goin’ on is perhaps an end to comparing. That is, less emphasis on “being good.” You know, all these contests have gotten into our thinking as though they are really a part of surfing, reducing it to just a zillion maneuvers. Over-surfing now reigns supreme, and is posing as “goodness,”—you know, as in good, better and on up to AAA-best in the world. It’s a kind of sickness, having already reached epidemic proportions that is at last dying its own death from some kind of internal suffocation.

Visions of summers past: Bainbridge Island, WA., summer ’91.

Now perhaps some other factors will kick in which will awaken more surfers to how bitchin’ fun it can be and how friggin’ many ways there really are to enjoy a wave including, but not limited to, riding it.

One afternoon I was watching some canned TV up here in Seattle and it was some Stubbies-type professional contest. And there was this sorta short MC interviewing these two sorta short, muscular wave jockeys—hot pros. The MC was saying stuff about how the taller surfers were, like, out and the sport was fast becoming the domain of these shorter, more muscular, (“supposedly powerful”) surfers.

And I had to sorta stop and stare for a few seconds. “Ripping.” “Thrashing.” “Getting Tubed,” and all the rest of these words were buzzing in my ears, while my eyes beheld guys with sneers and self importance written all over their faces. This scene passed before me and I thought, “Wheeew, I’ll be glad when this crap is over.” It just looked kinda like vomit or some type of fungus. 

A few predictions.

Surfing is just starting to spread. You want to know where it’s headed? You can already see it in the movies and beer ads. For the most part there will be more of the same for the next 20 years.

Certainly the trends toward lightness and maneuverability will generally continue/

You will recognize today as “the old days,” and be bored by the strained attempts at originality of tomorrow’s generation. You will seek ways to relive now, and earlier times, finding what youth thinks to be modern as awkward, even ugly. Where there are now xy thousand guys on little boards, hop ping and flailing, soon there will be xyz thousand. Their surfing will be even jerkier. Today’s one million guys and gals on boogie boards will become 50 million. Surf skiers, longboarders, air mattress users etc., will all increase. Where now there are maybe four guys jumping from planes—air surfing their snowboards before they pull their ’chutes—soon there will be a thousand who do this and improve the technique, though probably by no more than 10%.

Water pollution will continue to increase out of control. Somebody will come up with some half-assed pollution testing kit, and it will become a big seller in California and the East Coast, perhaps integrated into an underwater watch.

Boogies in rivers and on lakes will be commonplace.

There will be 100 wave parks in the United States. And each one will be good value because, in as little as ten years from now, even you will be so bored by secondhand sitcom experiences, canned laughter, and koka-kola stomach upset, that any excuse to be out in the elements will be welcome.

There will be safer surfing equipment yet more accidents, more restrictions and more taxation.

Major limbs of the tree of surfing (longboard, shortboard, skimboard, boogie board, surf ski) will continue to grow and branch…but the character of each will remain the same. A few combinations will merge. Skimboarders will finally realize that they can also surf the crap out of their boards, either using swim fins or standing up from the get go. (Heck, a number of years ago on a bet, Buttons Kaluhiokalani, or someone stand-up surfed a garbage can lid at Makapu’u.)

The wind weapon (read sailboard) attempts to merge flight and sailing even more, but doesn’t quite cut it on the Columbia River. It appears the guys go up, then stall back. What’s needed is to take that board to the right surf spot. The short mast should be curved forward, then around and back, giving the rider more room to adjust forward. Then, what can be done by combining this tool with a big updraft-the wind blowing directly into the lineup, like a south wind at Malibu—blowing into a relatively large wave. Can the rider fade then turn, soaring up and then stepping forward into the updraft to glide forward, like a pelican, for the duration of the wave?

How many of us have seen pelicans surfing exactly this way, for miles up or down the various coasts? Recently at Boca de Barranca in Costa Rica I saw a pelican sitting 300 yards directly outside of me—both of us waiting for a set. When it came, he paddled and flapped a few times and immediately dropped into one of the choicer waves. The slight updraft forming as the wave advanced gave him enough lift to fold up his legs and feet, tuck in his gullet, and glide free. Then, soaring straight toward me (as if to say, “Turkey, you are some kind of gross kook!”) he faded right into the curl of this left point break capturing even more speed. Upon reaching the curl he flared up and smoothly cutback left, descending and surfing, wing tips gracefully feathering the face, down the entire length of this half-mile, peeling left! Not fishing. Just surfing (or showing off) for the fun of it.

And what will happen when the kite becomes a recognized alternative to the sail and the controllable performance kite is combined with longboards in the surf? This is something that’s easy to mess around with, so it should come soon. You don’t have to stand up on it, but you can once you get going. You need no mast, no wishbone, with their associated expense and maintenance. So what if you just putt along?

The ultimate test.

Today there is too much hype (and all of us have bought into it) on high performance. Everybody is trying to buy the best for the least. Not only is this squeezing most of the charity from us, it’s also stealing the fun. I mean, how high performance was some junk raft that Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer might have built? Yet, what fun it would have been. At some point recently (say since 1985), the skimmers went from low tide shallows to high tide shore break and now they stand-up surf at the Wedge, Malibu and probably even Makaha.

The skimmer enters running from the curl side of the beach, hops aboard, and glides diagonally across the foam and up into the curl for sometimes many seconds of controlled surfing, followed by tubing, head-dipping finishes.

Now, how about combining the skimboard with controllable kites along wet low-tide sands?

And who will begin riding oversize boogie boards in the updraft above trucks on I-5? Too far out? Well, consider the following:

Mike Stewart reports, “I was surfing Waimea last winter on the morning of the Eddie Aikau contest,” (reportedly the biggest contest surf ever ridden), “We got kicked out for the contest, so I checked Himalayas and it was huge! It was so big I decided to first go home and eat. Then, re-checking, it was still really big and really far out there. So I decided I needed to go home again, you know, ahhh…for my rash guard jersey!

“Finally I paddled out and was stoked to find that there was, in fact one other guy out, board surfing a medium sized gun. He was a really good surfer, alone out there for who knows how long before I arrived. (I’m sorry I never caught his name.)

“An offshore wind was rising. We had ridden a couple of these monsters but of no particular importance. Now, I was paddling back out again and this guy was just taking off on a real devil! By now the wind had come up another notch and was pretty dam stiff. The guy had just begun dropping in––in great form––when a gusty updraft caught him and began lifting him up and over the back! But somehow he had the savvy to shift his weight forward and simultaneously crouch down and, reaching under the tail, pull it up to bring the nose down. In so doing, surfer and board became totally airborne! I’m not lying, he went completely off the water, surfing the wind above the wave exclusively. And he continued in this fashion, riding for his life, for about…I’d say 40 feet. And this was stable flying, before he finally lost it and was blown out over the back. It was awesome!

“Thereafter I began thinking more about the effects of the air and began catching a bit more whenever I could, and gliding a bit further—nothing significant, but a change in my thinking which I definitely intend to pursue.”

Of course the surf clothing business will continue to shake out.

The US economy will go belly up. The concept of nations will be recognized as obsolete.

A few people will start to catch on to actually surfing just for the fun of it, and traveling all over the world to so do. Not for reputation or gain: just for fun. And these few precious souls will help revolutionize the thinking of man.