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Unraveling “The Human Boardslide” with Sterling Spencer

What Was Sterling Spencer Thinking?

| posted on July 22, 2010

Last week, we posted a web clip called “The Human Boardslide: Don’t Drop in on Sterling Spencer” that stirred up some digital controversy (to say the least). In the video, an unknown surfer drops in on Sterling at Lowers, and Spencer launches an air directly onto the perpetrator’s back. Luckily, no one was hurt…aside from some feelings in the trail of comments left by readers beneath the video.
Since there was such an outrage in the form of death threats to Sterling, calls from the police, and angry subscribers claiming they’ll never pick up another issue of SURFER again, we figured we’d talk to the man in question, and try to get some insight into the matter.

OK, give us some context into this day. What happened before you landed on the surfer’s back? And after, and what you were thinking?

It was at Lower Trestles, the most crowded wave in the world, and it was my first or second wave, and it was a really long wave and I saw someone way down the line and I hooted probably three times before. And the section was at me so I couldn’t really see him, all I saw was the whitewater and then I boosted and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh he’s still there,’ and it happened in one second, so there’s only but so many things you can do. I was already boosting an air, and I ended up just planting on his back.

I was more worried about throwing my board or spearing him in the head—I didn’t want to spear him so I ended up just leveling my board out and landing on him. And we both crashed and underwater I’m thinking, “I hope I didn’t kill this guy or hurt this guy!” When we got up he said, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t even look.” I asked him if he was okay and said I was sorry and he was like, “Yeah, I’m okay. It just knocked the wind out of me.” And three weeks later the video just kind of crept out.

Did you have any idea this clip would take off the way it did? Since publishing it, we’ve heard you’ve gotten death threats, people have threatened to cancel their subscription to SURFER, police have contacted you…it’s been a ride.

It’s pretty crazy what each person thinks. Some people think it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen, and other people think I’m trying to murder a person. It’s crazy how quickly everyone’s opinion takes off, but I was definitely not trying to hurt anyone.

So was it completely accidental?

If you think about it, it all happened in one second—I mean, how much can a person do? People think I’m a ninja, like I’ve been waiting years for this, but the chances of doing something like that on purpose are ridiculous. I think most people want to start something because it’s fun.

So what have been the consequences from posting this clip or any lessons learned?

Boardsliding humans isn’t very cool. It’s very dangerous, and don’t try it.

The next time a guy drops in on you what will happen?

I’ll take him out to lunch.

I think the clip in question has made you some Internet-enemies. Is there anything you’d like to say to the viewers out there to help clear the air?

To my new friends, I’m sorry guys. People do stupid stuff…