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AN OPINION: Australian Surf Culture Richer, Riper Than US

| posted on July 22, 2010

Surf culture is an Australian birthright. Australian’s possess a unique national culture and a huge part of that unique culture is the ocean and all that comes with it; i.e. surfing. In the United States we have surf culture; some of it legitimate such as David Nuuhiwa’s Fish being stolen and hung in effigy at the ’72 World Contest in San Diego and/or the 1986 OP Pro riots in Huntington Beach. Most of our surf culture however is generated via the pop cultural machine that drives our consumerism. It is, for the most part, insincere and unattractive. Here in the US, surf culture is created and marketed to lure 16-year-old’s into purchasing a $55 pair of boardshorts. I’m not saying that is wrong, just unattractive. Australian surf culture isn’t designed. In Australia, buying surf trunks is a given (more than likely though you’ll get a pair of hand-me-downs). Surf culture is a part of their national fabric and it is, for the most part, without pretense and lacks a ‘click here to see more’ mentality that is very refreshing.

Australia is perhaps the only continent where the waves are more legendary than the men who ride them.

Australian surf culture resides in the distinctly Australian coastal townships. Most notably, each town’s surf club sits on prime real estate directly on the beach. In America these areas would be golf courses, and surfers would be asked to leave. And the heritage and lore of the local ‘clubbies’ — despite what the Aussie surfer might have you believe — possesses prime real estate in the soul of the Australian surfer. Legend is measured through aquatics, and the surf club is where legend and lore are poured down with the vigor and regularity of a Black and Tan. In the US we don’t have surf clubs. We have chambers of commerce.

Australian surf culture resonates in the Australian waves: Bells, Angourie, Lennox, Snapper, Kirra, Burliegh, Noosa and that’s just the east coast. In America the waves are generally tied directly to a surf star. Malibu and Dora; Rincon and Curren; Pipe and Lopez. Australia is perhaps the only continent where the waves are more legendary than the men who ride them. For a country full of surfers that speaks volumes.

Australian surf culture permeates within the Australian surfers who ride these waves. Robust and weathered expressions, crows feet at the eyes from hours of peering out to the horizon. The Aussie culture breeds a hardened surfer, but not a bitter one. They are optimistic despite the often surly venacular. A characteristic derived from thousands of miles of surfable coastline and dozens of Indo trips. Australian surfers measure time by swells and cyclones not IPOs and acquisitions.

Granted, the US’s surf culture has these types: Mickey Munoz, Robert Waldemar, and Colin Smith come to mind. But in Australia this archetype is the norm. They wear construction boots with boardshorts–to their own wedding. Except for the accents and bleached hair, Australian surfers look and act as if they could be from south Boston; you know, hard around the edges. A far cry from the US where nine out of ten surfers are digitized yuppies that drive an SUV du jour, paddle a leashed up longboard, and openly flaunt a venti Macchiato habit.

I know. I’m one of them.

Of course the biggest reason their surf culture resonates deeper than ours is in the fact that their entire population base lives within five miles of the coast. Our population base doesn’t know how to get to the coast, and uh, I guess that’s a good thing–unless you’re trying to sell boardshorts.

5 CLASSIC MOMENTS IN AUSTRALIAN SURF CULTURE
1) 1970 – Tracks mag delivers the irreverent cartoon Captain Goodvibes; mutant nuclear pork chop runs wild through Aussie surfing. Pot smoking increases.
2) 1972 – Alby Falzon’s “Morning of the Earth” released; a spiritual link between nature and surfing defined; oh, and the music was friggin’ cool too.
3) 1981 – Simon Anderson introduces the modern tri fin; surfers start going backside again.
4) 1996 – Coolangatta Park benches built to resemble longboards; Cooly planning commission wins award
5) 2007 – Angourie becomes a National Surfing Reserve; Attention Surfrider Foundation: That’s what I’m talking about!

5 NOT-SO-CLASSIC MOMENTS IN US SURF CULTURE
1) 1959 – “Gidget” introduces surfing to nation. Malibu become Malizoo.
2) 1965 – A publicly traded NYC clothing company sponsors Corky Carroll; Board of Directors run the brand into the ground, but do manage to purchase a cosmetic company.
3) 1966 – Killer Dana destroyed by marina, a perfect wave gone forever; Down Under, Australians re-carpet the Kirra Surf Club and tap a keg of Newcastle.
4) 1980 – Surfline begins selling surf forecast and conditions reports; In Australia surfers simply look out their windows.
5) 2006 – TV show “The OC” wins Teen Choice award for Best Drama/Action/; Entire cast given surfboards.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

DEAR SIR
Whose Aussie ass are you kissing with this ridiculous piece of bad writing? It reads like you came off a hangover with deadline staring you in the face, or like you pumped it out while still drunk and in love with your Foster’s lager.

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