Friday, April 24, 2009

FREAKS AND GEEKS: Surfers worship the former – but we should act more like the latter

I don’t wear pop-bottle glasses. No plastic pocket protector on my chest. And I couldn’t recite the Pythagorean Theorem if you wrote it out fo-net-i-kal-ee. Yet, more and more, I feel like a geek. Mostly, right about the time I leave the latest Surfrider meeting or perform some other form of ‘coastal activism.’

Part of it's the activities themselves. That AC no drilling rally? Lots of suits and old farts (aka three-pieces and hairpieces.) Beach clean-ups? The only thing worse than black socks on sand is plastic gloves. And even if our monthly meetings usually involve cracking beers and talking surf, the idea of sacrificing your free time to do more labor seems inherently dorky, like asking if there’s any homework five minutes before the bell rings on Friday or volunteering to bring the projector -- do they even use projectors these days? -- back to the AV room.

Then there's the whole membership idea. Come join a group to ‘save the planet’ — but do it in itsy, bitsy increments instead of asteroid-smashing strokes of genius. It’s like part lame-ass Justice League, part Chess Team. I flash back to that scene in the Breakfast Club when Anthony Michael Hall defends his physics fetish as something social. (“We discuss physics, properties of physics….we get dressed up, but we don’t get high.”) As Judd Nelson’s character, Bender, says: “They’re social…. demented and sad, but social.”

How true.

But a better indicator may be who I don’t see at meetings. I don’t see the top name pros. Or superstars. Most shop-owners or reps. Or even hardcore Bodhi-like loc-dogs. If we’re to continue the SURFING WORLD HIGH SCHOOL metaphor, those guys would be The A-Crowd. The jocks, hipsters and other cool guys who get all the perks -- like set waves, free gear and hot chicks –- for just being them. They’re also the very people who make their living off surfing and can make time to surf every swell -- but still get surprisingly busy when the time comes to defend the very spots they surf.

Industry dudes are the lowest tier, like the thespians. Self-important, so ‘outside the box’ and independent and non-conformist, even as they wear matching hoodies, jeans ‘footwear’ and ‘eyewear’ – only dorks wear shoes and glasses – but with a slightly different label tilted oh-so-askew. They suffer for their artform—selling shit—but not for much else. (By the way: I rebel by wearing my 'Surfing' tee's backwards.)

Photo sluts are like the Stoner/ Slacker clique. No need to study (compete) or make the grade (be on time). A cool buzz, tasty waves, they’re fine. Definitely don’t get any of those when you’re posting flyers against some toxic polluter (unless it’s huffing fumes off the mimeograph machine.)

And, finally, there’s the Jocks. The semi-pros and seven-figure LeBrons who’ll pimp any product from underpants to cologne to energy drinks for a paycheck but won’t take a few seconds to stop and help us equipment managers carry the water cooler that keeps them from dying on the field.

What about the Trestles rally, you say? That thing was full of reporters and news crews, the eco-equivalent of “Friday Night Lights.’ But a random, dig-and-get-dirty –to-fight-the-man affair? “Sorry, dude, coach says I need to save my energy for the game.”

If you need more proof, consider this: San Francisco’s Public Hearing two Thursdays’ ago drew roughly 300 people; the XXL Big Wave Awards? 2000. If you ask me, more of those guys would be heroes had they taken the tour bus north to SF right after. Maybe pointed out the possibilities for wind and water power in many of these same big venues; said we don’t need oil derricks with 100 miles of Cortes or Mav’s. That would’ve been easily as inspiring as riding a 100-foot wave -- and if it helped keep oil rigs from going up off our coast -- infinitely more effective in terms of preserving their careers and the health of the industry.

But it also may have been just a little bit . . . difficult. Definitely boring. With no clear-cut immediate reward and hardly a hot chick or party in sight. In other words: 100% geeky.

Look: I don’t expect things to change overnight. Hell, I’ll sooner find myself with my boxers pulled over my head and stuffed in a locker as I will convince any of these folks to show up on a monthly basis. But, much like there can be no homecoming party without the planning committee, without us geeks there would be no Trestles rallies to attend. And without rallies, there’d be no more Trestles. Connect those same dots on the Offshore Continental Shelf and drilling, we have the power to protect every wave on the mainland US – but only if we start to protect them now.

You don’t need to join the Physics club for life – just show up once in a while to see how you can help.

You don’t have to write a whole college essay; just send a letter to your elected officials. (You can even have someone do it for you by clicking here.)

The latter you can do without a single person ever knowing you caved. And these little acts of dorkdom are what will preserve surfing’s cool factor for eternity -- but only if we do them now. If not, we’ll wake up one day to see the favorite waves and beach communities ruined. Even worse, we’ll know we never even put up a fight.

And at that point, we won’t be geeks -- we’ll be losers.

Tap into your inner-geek: take the Surf-First survey after your next session. (But only if you haven't already . . .dork.)

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