Surfing Green: The ‘place’ of surf in narrations of nature. Dr Jon Anderson, Cardiff University, Wales, UK.
Introduction The ‘nature’ of the ( surf ace of the) sea contingent and relational relational sensibility with waves defines surfer, surf, and nature
Relational sensibilities with the surface of the sea “ the sea… has long been an archetypal symbolic image. … For the Romantic poets, &quot;the sea is where the decisive events, the moments of eternal choice, of temptation, fall, and redemption occur&quot; (Auden, 1950, p. 14). And for surfers… the &quot;mythic fascination lives on&quot; (Osborn, 1977, p. 362)” (Scheibel, 1995:254). Coingredience of people and nature (Casey, 2001; Preston, 2003) Before- and beyond- representational approaches to the world (Thrift, 2001; Lorimer, 2003) Senuous, bodily, relational approaches to nature (Rodaway, 1994) “ how we choose to make sense of the world significantly constitutes its reality. To engage with the world tactually is to situate oneself consciously in that world and to have a potentially unmediated relationship with it” (Lewis, 2000:59).
Contingent Events “ to argue against the realist and substantial way of thinking... is to treat [place] not as substance but as institutionalised form; not as collectivity but as practical category; not as entity but as contingent event ” (Brubaker, 1996:16 my emphasis). The place (of nature) is not developmental, but event ful. “ we must give serious theoretical attention to contingent events and to their transformative consequences” (Brubaker, 1996:21).
The ‘event’ (Badiou, 2003) An event: something that happens But, following Badiou, an event must be Irruptive “ What makes the event an event is not only that it happens, but that it surprises – and maybe even that it surprises itself....” (Nancy, 2000:159) Transforming Prompting commitment, fidelity Thus events become defining: of subject and place “ some human beings become subjects; those who act in fidelity to a chance encounter with an event which disrupts the situation they find themselves in” (Hallward, 2004:6).
The surfed wave as irruptive moment “ Ill never forget my first wave. My Dad pried me up from my death grip to a tentative stand-up position on the front of his ten-foot board. I’ve been a surfer ever since chasing waves, being chased by sharks, and chasing the dollar so I can surf some more” (Page, 2003:307). MH: “What’s really funny is that I didn’t start surfing until I moved to California... So I was about 17, it became something that everyone started doing. I went down to the beach one summer and kinda went ‘jeez, how did I miss this?’” Drift: You got the bug early on? MH: Oh my god yeah – from the very first wave! I was stood up and looking in, and I realised I had my balance and these doors either side of you just open up. It’s a funny experience; you’re weightless. I’ve been trying to figure it out for years, but I think that’s it” (Drift Magazine, July 2008:62).
“ I'll never forget sitting there, still only a boy, watching Curren's first ride at J-Bay on the big screen in the function room of a Porthcawl pub. …It'll stay with me forever, seeing some of the top surfers in my area (they surfed as well as I imagined it was ever possible to) just losing it as they watched the first under-the-lip fade, gasping as Curren emerged from tube number two, and then screaming and erupting into applause as he dropped out of sight and into the section they call 'Impossibles'. It was fantasy. ...Hard to imagine that this 'wave', this mass of water so suited to surfing, actually existed; that Tom Curren was a real human being who had gone there and taken off on it” (Anderson, 2007:13).
Stoke glimpsed in irruptive moment Stoking the event “ It is this feeling of intense elation that ensnares a board rider and unless you appreciate this you will never understand surfers. If you want real emotional kicks, this is it. This affective experience of surfing is called “stoke.” If one is very stoked, they experience a fully embodied feeling of satisfaction, joy, and pride. You will tingle from your head to your toes” (Evers, 2006:229). “ Never stop surfing. Surfing’s where it’s at because it takes you to this other place that everybody else wants to go to but can’t get there” (The Surfers’ Path, 2007:17).
Surfed wave as transformative “ _____ was more from my I mould, taking whatever jobs necessary as and when he had to, but his main purpose was surf trips - that was when he really lived, and when all those long hours behind a bar, a production line or numerous other work stations suddenly made sense. What we had in common: everyone had chosen to live their lives largely around surfing” (Anderson, 2007:19).
Fidelity to the surfed wave “ I t's like a pilgrimage. The hardship of the journey and the insecurity of the search is the only way to experience true reward” (Anderson, 2007:151). “ ...what natural-foot serious about surf travel wouldn't dream of making a pilgrimage to that little stretch of coastline just beyond Humansdorp? This trip for me had begun over ten years ago, with a decision. A promise. An oath. Thou shalt surf J-Bay once thou hast grown old enough to travel there and once thou surfest good enough to make it count” (Anderson, 2007:9). “ Surfing was already a lifestyle that demanded as much commitment as any marriage” (Anderson, 2007:174).
Surfed wave as subject forming “ That life's not for me, man,' Lenny remarked. 'I couldn't compromise like that. Fuck, if it wasn't for surfing I'd probably be a damn brain surgeon by now or something. Yeah, it's well and truly fucked up my life. All I've done for the past ten years is either fart around in tropical countries, or hang out in car parks and hostels talking shit!” (Anderson, 2007:243).
Surfed wave as coingredient to personal identity “ I thought of that moment when the Sorrento ocean beach swoops like a gull diving, the tea-tree parting to reveal the etched blue lines of Bass Strait and the honey-combed amphitheatre of the back beach with its rock pools and heaving dumpers and seaweedy depths. …I wanted to tell Nelly, who speaks as little English as I speak French, what it meant to me. C’est la cote de mon coeur , I said, knowing it would sound corny in English, but hoping I could get away with it in French. It is the coast of my heart” (Capp, 2004:7).
Surfed wave as relational sensibility “ Waves, after all, are not mountains, with crevices and footholds that can be clung to, explored, calibrated and made familiar. When you catch a wave and steady yourself by stretching out your hand to carve an arc in its liquid face, leaning your weight against it, nothing feels as solid and substantial as that moving wall of water. Yet a wave is not a thing at all but a fluid, rambunctious manifestation of energy, tantalisingly immaterial and thumpingly real“ (Capp, 2004:129). “… the more mature understanding of nature as some-thing we all 'half create' -through the meanings and desires we bring to it” (Capp, 2004:3)