Surfing Is Cool

| posted on July 27, 2010

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” —Mark Twain

There was a time, not long ago, when surfing was stuck in a rut—no matter how many world titles Kelly Slater won, the hobby or sport (whatever we call it now) still wasn’t that cool. Surfing was boring. Same thing over and over. A DVD stuck on repeat. Every surfer and every style exactly the same. No creativity and no originality. That was then, and this is now.

Competition in surfing will never go away. People are always going to say that without a world title you can never be called the “Best Surfer In The World.” But today, having a world title doesn’t carry the same weight as being the coolest surfer in the world.

“Hobbies: Drinking Beer.” That is a direct quote from probably the most unintended rock star of surfing: Dane Reynolds. Current World Tour ranking: No. 4. Dane, among others, has made surfing interesting again. At J-Bay, in Reynolds’ quarterfinal heat against Taj Burrow, Dane pretty much gave the heat to Burrow by unsuccessfully trying airs on all but one wave. Why was this cool? He wanted to do airs and wasn’t going to go away from that game plan. When have you ever seen the best surfer in the world lose because they wanted to do airs? Never. Dane’s questionable thinking and freakish talent to do the unimaginable has made him the coolest surfer on the planet. He achieved this worthy label purely off his talent and personality—not his world title count.

Dane Reynolds is changing the way we look at competitive surfing, but more importantly the way we look at surfing as a whole. Photo: Ellis

Dane Reynolds is changing the way we look at competitive surfing, but more importantly he is changing the way we look at surfing as a whole. Photo: Ellis

Half-naked-women portrayer, art enthusiast, blogger, inadvertent fashionista, aerialist, Modern Collective star Dion Agius is making a living off surfing for all these reasons. Dion currently lives in Sydney, Australia, because he wants to live in a place where there is something going on 24/7, rather than living the token beach/pro surfer life. Dion decided to spend this summer in New York City with fellow “hipster” Warren Smith, capturing the art and culture through the eyes of two urban pro surfers. They have started a blog photographing what they think is interesting and unique in a city rich in urban culture. How does this relate to surfing? It doesn’t necessarily, and that’s what makes it cool. They’re just pro surfers unintentionally making surfing cool in places where, until recently, surfing was looked at as static.

Dion Agius ejecting the DVD on the streets of New York City. Photo: Courtesy of

Dion Agius ejecting the DVD stuck on repeat in the streets of New York City. Photo: Courtesy of

My mom was in middle school when the boys from Bustin’ Down The Door were making their presence known. I couldn’t walk yet in the Curren v. Occy days. And I can barely remember Slater winning his first World Title. But I know that surfing is finally cool—and it’s not because of how many world titles one guy has won. It’s because finally surfers are becoming individuals and are being given the opportunity to represent companies that match their personality: Alex Knost and RVCA, Andrew Doheny and Volcom, Warren Smith and Insight, Dion Agius and Globe, Julian Wilson and Quiksilver.

What is cool or in right now may not necessarily be cool or in tomorrow. And maybe winning world titles is the coolest or best thing in surfing. I don’t know. But maybe, just maybe, we can keep this movement of individuality going and eject the DVD stuck on repeat.

  • SRForDIE

    Foolish competitive decisions and hack job photos of pro surfers bumming it in New York are not the epitome of “coolness” in surfing. Personally, I think this article deserves to be in the dumpster. Kelly will always be “cool” and so will his surfing. He’s timeless, as his career thus far has proven. These other guys? It’s hard to say. I have to give it up to Knost for being a pretty wildly expressive guy, but this article really doesn’t prove its point. This is especially true due to the plug at the bottom for surfers and their sponsors–sponsors which probably have more clauses in the contracts they issue that restrict personal expression than enhance it.

  • Alberto

    Great perspective! Maybe because surfing it’s an art and some people have seen it with a different approach trying to make it something you can count and not paint. And I think it will evolve in some many kinds of emotions and feelings in years to come.

  • josh

    This entry is F’ing lame. Surfing just became less cool for this post.

  • Barney

    @josh, couldn’t agree more. good thing surfermag’s blog isn’t in the battle of the blogs cuz they wouldn’t make it out of the trials…

  • Dewey

    I don’t know about cool but it sure has been fun for almost 50 years.

  • Bill

    Here we go again, someone inside the surf industry (magazines) trying to say someone else inside the industry (pro surfer) is the best in the world at surfing. You must mean the best in the world as far as pro surfing and surf magazines go right? What gives so few the right to make claims like that for so many? Dane in just another of many butt wiggling contest lurkers and you surf magazine contest followers are as good as Tiger Beat reporters with your “He’s so cool” high school writing style. Also, anyone who’s stoked about surfing becoming cooler is an industry sell-out who spends more time on his ass making money than he does in the water surfing. There is nothing cool about more guys in the worlds line -up and you only think it’s cool because it means you will make more money. There’s also nothing cool about promoting a beer swilling pro surf punks to the world as the best in our sport. The best surfer in the world is the guy doing it for the love of it and keeping his mouth shut about it!

  • Aaron_Who?

    Who is this guy?

  • Nick

    Maybe Im just an artsy hipster, but I like the idea of a sponsor supporting a surfers image as opposed to a sponsor trying to portray a surfer in the mold of their image… Although Im super non-competitive, Im still blown away at the level of dedication and skill it takes to win a stack of world titles, but theres nothing competitive about surfing to me. Id much rather read about someone with as much personality as Dane doing what he wants to do in the world than I would want to read about heat scores and paddle battles. I LOVE watching rippers ripping waves. Love it. That’s why I go to as many pro surf events as I can, but it’s the ripping I like. Not the competition, that’s for football as far as Im concerned… Surfing is art and I love the artists.

  • other aaron

    dewey is cool

  • Ivan

    Aaron in the imortal words of Paul Simon in his song ’50 ways to leave your lover’
    “The problem’s all inside your head (she said to me)…”

  • Ricardo

    And herein lies the struggle: Our native culture is lame (“Bro, Newps was epski!”) and our pre-meditated, apologist efforts to counteract it (the article above, the Malloy Bros’ “neo-logger” aesthetic, Dane Reynolds) are even lamer. Quoting War Games, “The only winning move is not to play.”

    And BTW, anyone who calls me an “…art enthusiast, blogger, inadvertent fashionista…” leaves with a black eye.

  • VW Campervans for sale

    When did surfing ever become uninteresting? Personalities come and go – a bit like the waves!

  • Roy Stewart

    More doubletalk. . . . surfermag would not exist without the majority, but of course everyone wants to think that they are rebels, even lame magazine editors.

  • Coolest guy ever

    cool people suck, and so do people who post comments.

  • zach

    What’s “Cool” about being a “Surfer” ?

    Having caught that “perfect” day alone or with a friend.

    Slan Scumente where the Sewer meets the Sea – used to be a cool place, but now it is just the “industry” and a few sane Surfers at “San-O” !

    Slan Scumente where “Surf” magazines had their birth have done more damage to surfing than ever could be calculated.

    Met John Severson in Capo Beach years ago at Don Kremers house and he was laughing all the way to the bank.

    Photographed “Cottons” from Severson’s balcony in Cyprus Shores many times.

    Get “IT” while it’s “HOT” Surfers – -It’s all downhill from here out.

    “coolest guy ever” – look up “ironic”

  • Mik

    Memo to “coolest guy ever”: so you are publicly saying that you suck? just sayin. btw: coolest doesn’t necessarily mean tight jeans and a dreadlock capacity knit cap. i think that Andy Irons may be the coolest surfer ever because he does the coolest mental maneuvers in the heaviest places on waves that 95% of the surf population would generally not even paddle for.

  • Mik

    Nick: great comment. cool column concept too. i love surf culture. it takes individualism to be a surfer, and the degree of indy ramps up the better the surfer is. Kelly being the full example. read “For the Love”. no other world champ athlete is even close to the mentality of Slater, and that has trickled down to all of us, on all sides of the spectrum. having said that, i think Kelly needs to not try to draw attention to himself by showing up late, or having odd or questionable injuries that appear like game-playing strategy. uncharacteristically un-cool.

  • Gergler

    cool is hanging around after losing your heat and having fun! cool is not getting angry. cool is doing good things when no one is looking and there is no tax deduction. cool is being able to chill with yourself. cool is being secure enough with yourself to be yourself. cool is making an attempt at thinking objectively and forming your own perspective. cool is being warm. cool is not being afraid… afraid of who you are are or what others may think. You can take it from here…

  • zach

    “Cool” is knowing what is “Un-cool” !

  • Al

    Look at it from the point of view of someone who doesn’t surf. What do they see when they’re at the beach, bobbing in the shorebreak and see someone sliding on a wave in front of them? I can tell you from experience that when I’m riding a wave to shore, weaving through a pack of vacationers, that the expresion on their faces says it all. They are simply amazed at what they’re seeing. Here they are getting pummeled by the power of the waves and along comes some guy or girl just effortlessly walking on water, just gliding along, in control of and one with nature at the same time. To them, what they see is magical. To us, what we feel when we’re riding waves is magical. That is the essence of what makes surfing cool. Everything else, the attitude, the lifestyle, the personalities, that’s just an extension of the core coolness. Surfing and surfers have always been and always will be cool.

  • surfer

    surfermag used to be cool… @josh barney bill. totally right

  • Michell Miklitz

    Very nice article! I love coming to your blog for the reason that you always publish informative articles. Great work once again. I in the process adding to favorites this website. I am planning to subscribe to this feed also. Take Care! ……..

  • Jaime Glenn