“So, who’s going on your boat trip?” asked one of my co-workers, expecting me to offer up a short list of B-side pro surfers.
“Nobody,” I shot back. “Just some friends.”
“No pros?” he quizzed, “How are you going to get photos?”
“I’ll get photos,” I said coolly.
An awkward silence filled the room.
Feeling the need to explain myself, I clarified. “This trip isn’t about spoiled, ‘over -it’ pro surfers,” I preached, sounding rather bitter. “It’s about our readers, the rank-and-file, the…the anti-pros.”
“Anti-pro,” muttered my co-worker. “What’s that?”
Stumbling for clarification myself, I went back to my desk and reflected a bit. The anti-pros are 99.9 percent of the surfers in the world. They are the ones who produce the physical act of surfing on a daily basis. The anti-pros are, to put it in Marxian terms, the forces of surfing production. The typical anti-pro is a highly experienced and highly stoked surfer. He gets no mainstream media credit, but doesn’t look for it either. He is the working class surfer–the salt of the earth. The everyday, hardcore, checkin’-it-at-dawn surfer. At his local spot, the anti-pro is well respected. The anti-pro is more intrigued by the NFL than the ASP. The anti-pro couldn’t care less about clothing companies or demographics, but his equipment must be top shelf. The anti-pro is a white collar IT guy, reading this while sitting in a stuffy little feeding pen-cum-work cubicle, hoping his boss isn’t peeking over his shoulder. The anti-pro is a student, in his eighth year of college, festering in computer labs. The anti-pro is a successful, highly paid VP of marketing, whizzing around the net on his laptop. But apart from his socioeconomic status outside the surf world, in the world of surfing his social status is that of the proletariat. He doesn’t get free boards, wetsuits or boat trips. In fact, he doesn’t get free anything. Especially free waves. He works for everything. He is a cabinetmaker, a sales rep, a sous chef, an engineer. He labors; he toils; he saves…and then he goes on surf trips. The anti-pro carries surfing’s version of the sickle and hammer: a tri-fin and rash guard. He bears the financial scars of the proletariat surfer: sizable credit card bills.
Without the anti-pro there would be no surf magazines, no corporate dollars flowing in, no consumers to sell to. In short, there would be no market place for surfing’s corporate bourgeois class, represented by pro surfers such as Kelly Slater, Rob Machado and the aptly named Ben Bourgeois. The anti-pro represents surfing’s salt-of-the earth. You, my friend, are the anti-pro.
Since anti-pros are so abundant, why then, are there no stories about you? Oh sure, occasionally a fluffy 400-word department piece will shed some light on the anti-pro, but by and large you are ignored. Instead you get “pros” on a boat trip: bourgeois class, all-expense-paid, photo hounds whose concept of cultural awareness is reflected solely in their knowledge that North American DVDs don’t play in Asian VCD players.
But the photo pros rip. And therefore they help create, in a big way, stunning imagery. Most of us can’t make 3-foot Pismo pier look too good. Tim Curran can. However, level the playing field a bit by throwing a few anti-pros into Mentawai perfection, and the result can be worthy imagery, and a tale that connects with us, the everyday, hardcore, checkin’-it-at-dawn, working-class surfer.
Or at least, that was my plan. So I set out to demonstrate that a few 40-something anti-pros on a boat trip–many who wouldn’t be able to muster up the nerve to caddy at Sunset Beach let alone paddle out–could, in fact, be characters in a worthy tale. And in a surf mag, a worthy tale consists of good images–the rest is filler.