Brave New Surf

Rob Gilley on how dystopian literature can help your surf life

| posted on October 29, 2013
No crowds. Photo: Gilley

No alphas or betas to worry about here. Photo: Gilley

Aldous Huxley, one of the pre-eminent intellectuals of the 20th Century, was probably best known for writing the novel, Brave New World. In this science fiction narrative, he offered a bleak view of the future—a dystopian civilization that deprives personal freedom, and brings about the near-complete dehumanization of mankind.

What’s lesser known is that thirty years later Huxley wrote a follow-up to his famous book, titled Brave New World Revisited. This essay analyzed whether the world had moved closer or further away from the future described in Brave New World, and concluded that not only was society moving closer, it was doing so at a much faster pace than originally anticipated.

Huxley cited overpopulation as the principal cause for this accelerating fate, and went on to dissect the dangers of too many people sharing too few resources. Further, he deconstructed modern socio-economics to show that when it really comes down to it, you can trace most—if not all—of the world’s major problems to population density. Famine, war, social inequality, you name it—they all had their roots in too many people in too small of a space.

READ: Managing a Lineup

This simple concept always made a lot of sense to me, and really became evident when traveling. With little exception, it was clear that there was a direct relationship between population and quality of life. The more people in a given area, the more problems there seemed to be. By contrast, in a sparsely populated place like South Island, New Zealand, for example, people seemed to lead an almost utopian existence.

Huxley’s premise seems to be especially visible in the surf world. As most of you know, whenever there’s conflict in the lineup—bad vibes, arguing, fights—it’s almost invariably during a crowded session. By turns, most of life’s best and most rewarding surfs come when it’s a solo session or just a group of friends sharing a lightly attended or empty lineup.

MAGAZINE: Crowd Control

So my advice to you is this: armed with Huxley’s revelation, let it guide your behavior. If you don’t like violence or stink eyes or some greedy dickwad ruining your session, go somewhere else. Drive down the coast and look for an empty peak. Go to that outer island you always thought might have waves.

Bravely go where no man has gone before.

  • Pablo

    I surfed yesterday a great point break where there was only me and 2 more at the peak and 3 more on the channel down the line. One of the guys at the peak had an argument with a friend at the shoulder first and me later. This was by no means crowded at all but he managed to pick a fight anyway. I’ve been at waves with 50+ surfers with great vibe an no problems also so, I think you’re wrong, I think the ONLY thing necesary to have a bad vibe at a line up is that guy that is always gonna go for trouble no matter what.

    • veritas

      Agree with you

  • jmaccers

    …and crowd up some other place and start the whole cycle again

  • Pickles

    I’ve had Lowers sessions completely packed and everyone having a great time with decent waves. I’ve also surfed it with 2ft slop and everyone at each other’s throats the entire time. It’s a mentality I (and others) refer to as “Surf Jocks”. We all know who they are. Those that treat every session like training grounds for Pipeline. Kind of like that one really loud guy at an otherwise mellow party with a few friends. He gets hammered, flips the coffee table over, brags about a fight he got in, then shoves someone and throws up in the front yard. Super unnecessary and brings bad vibes to the whole lot. But largely, at more localized spots, everything seems to run pretty smoothly until “that” guy shows up.

  • surferreader

    limit how many kids you have

  • Kevin Hale

    good comments about the dreaded “surf jocks” and “that guy”, but it still seems to fit rob’s premise: that the more crowded it is, the more chance for one of those bad seeds to appear.

  • Alex

    There are better lessons in Huxley’s work. Read his last novel, “island”, the utopian counterpart of “brave new world”, suggesting that humans can live together in a peaceful integration with nature and others at the condition of practicing restraint, compassion, and understanding (OK that’s a utopia, but the lesson remains). Armed with THAT revelation, let it guide your behavior at your crowded spot: act nice and unselfishly, keep smiling, lower your expectations, enjoy what you get and accept that you can’t get everything you want, keep calm despite locals burning you & cooks ruining your waves… Because let’s face it, if we could go somewhere else down the coast to an empty peak that’s just as good, we wouldn’t need to read Huxley to do it…

  • dgb

    a dystopian civilization that deprives personal freedom – clearly he foresaw the US of today.