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THE NEW MILLENNIALS: Surfing’s Post Modern Era Has Arrived

| posted on July 22, 2010

By the time they first stood on a surfboard aerials were already commonplace, the Mentawais were an Orange County playground waiting at the end of a Duralumin tunnel, and jet skis and tow ropes had floored and trussed gigantic surf like Gulliver at the hands of the Lilliputians. Though scarcely a blip on the radar in the year 2000, their ranks are growing in size and strength. They are the first surfers to come of age in the 21st Century. They are the New Millennials.

The New Millennial spearhead, tipped by surfers like Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds, is already jabbing at the softening underbelly of the Establishment. Having clinched berths on the 2008 ASP World Tour, it is apparent that the siege will now commence and a changing of the guard is not far off. It is time to heed the advance of this new generation.
With the rise of Kelly Slater surfing entered its most Œmodern‚ period, but the New Millennial generation is decidedly postmodern and is poised to alter everything we know or think or deem sacrosanct about surfing. Raised in the boom time where seven-figure contracts, personal managers and entourages are the norm for teenage savants, their attitudes and styles and even surf stances have been forged by possibilities that never existed for the Free Ride generation or the Slater Squad.

That the New Millennials are a fusion of all that came before is expected, but what is remarkable is that they‚ve come of age in a sort of creative anarchy fostered by an honest-to-God surfing renaissance. The best of the New Millennials are shedding excess movement, boosting their speed and power and applying these streamlined kinetics in a full array of acrobatic maneuvers unthinkable in previous eras. The New Millennial approach draws inspiration from other gravity-fed sports beyond surfing˜skateboarding, snowboarding, even BMX, to name a few˜but at its core the thrust is purely functional: Everything is sacrificed on the altar of linking together bigger and bigger moves.
Since the New Millennials are set to burst upon the stage, we thought you should get to know them. How does this blossoming generation view surfing‚s past, present, and future? What we found was both surprising (some wish they had come of age in the 1960s) and predictable (the most sought-after change in surfing? More money for pro surfers!), but always interesting, considering that the New Millennial ideology is still squalling in its crib.
The fact that as a demographic they are bigger, broader, and more international means they‚re not as tightly knit as previous generations. Thus, we‚re not about to peg them as possessing one characteristic or another. We merely acknowledge their arrival and inform you that they are here to stay, and, well, perhaps we should just step aside and let them speak about the future of surfing

NAT YOUNG:

Santa Cruz upstart Nat Young has more than just an interesting name going for him—he’s a sh-t hot surfer who’s got a thing or two to say. Like the other surfers featured here, we asked Young to comment on some general questions about the present and future of surfing. Unlike the others, he replied with a 1,500-word essay on the sport that offers a revealing glimpse into the perspective of today’s young surfers. We distilled it down to some poignant highlights:

ON SURFBOARDS:

The surfers who are busting out freakish maneuvers are demanding more refined technology, and that’s helping to guide the shaper’s evolution. Boards and equipment are reaching a new level of technology, with new materials, and it’s the same with fins. All this new development in boards and fins can help the surfer develop his own style. Newer materials will almost certainly make the boards faster, lighter, and more diverse; new technology might even produce guns that would allow stunt-type surfing in big waves.

ON WAVES:

With high-tech equipment and freak-show surfing comes the desire to surf perfect, uncrowded waves. New luxury high-speed charter boats are being produced to find the “new” perfect waves. Unfortunately, nothing stays “secret” for long these days. For the future of waves, it’s possible that exploration could head into colder conditions. This would most likely produce fewer crowds, unless the wetsuit companies can keep pace. And then there’s the possibility of man-made waves being produced. These would probably be made in places like Japan, where there are enough spots and enough money and interest. As the high-tech satellite equipment becomes focused on finding perfect big-wave conditions, surfers will rise to that challenge.

ON GROWTH:

A sport that once only the surfer cared about now has the attention of the entire planet. I think that the “Surf Clothing Industry” has done the most to contribute to this phenomenon. It has taken the laid-back style of the surfer and made it the envy of the world, all while racking in billions of dollars in revenue. People in the Midwest who have never even seen the ocean are wearing “surf brand” clothing. It’s not just people who have found an obsessive attraction to the surf culture—multi–billion-dollar conglomerate corporations want in on this “surf phenomenon” as well. The image of surfing is selling for big, big, big profits.

The effect is an increased crowd factor. With all the surf schools sprouting up from every corner of the ocean, there will be unmanageable crowds filled with kooks who know nothing about etiquette. Most surf schools seem to be more interested in quantity than quality, faster turnaround and more money.

ON PROFESSIONAL SURFING:

On the other end from the beginner you’ve got the pro surfer. His job will grow, and he will throw in new tricks, some similar to skateboarding or snowboarding, some original ones. For younger pros and amateurs, home schooling and independent study will be utilized instead of public or private schools to accommodate the travel and contest schedules; hopefully education won’t be altogether dropped.

For the phenoms, salaries will equal those of Tiger Woods and Lebron James. And the surfers who excel will be at the center of the bidding wars that will arise between the various companies. All of this, of course, is already happening; it will just happen more consistently and the stakes will get higher and higher. That said, the new pro surfer, with his enormous salary, will have to give something up, and that something is probably going to be his free time. Freesurfing with friends and surfing for fun will be a thing of the past, because when you’re getting paid eight figures you’re always on the clock.

BOTTOM LINE:

A lot of changes will happen in surfing. Some will be good, and some will be bad, but the one thing that will hopefully never change for the real surfer is the pure stoke.

Here’s what the rest of the new millennials had to say to a barrage of questions: