Monday, October 5, 2009

DICK DRAGGERS UNITE! (And ‘sea sweepers’, ‘goat-boaters,’ ‘wiggle sticks’…)

5500. That’s the number of surveys Surf-First managed to muster in just 11 months, covering every age, gender, location and discipline. So pat yourselves on the back for a job well done. We’ll update you as we move forward, but let me say thanks to all who helped from individuals to media outlets to fellow activist groups. You all are responsible for what will surely be an education on who we are and how we behave as a user group. In fact, I’m already learning things about myself: namely, that I’m an insensitive prick.

Okay, so I knew that already. But thanks to Robbie “G-Nutz” Gennet for the reminder. RG’s a keyboard-player, music writer, Huff Po blogger and rabid sponger who expressed some disappointment with the tone of our questions, which seemed to assume everyone who rides waves does so standing up on foam and fiberglass. I understand the feeling. I used to be the only dad in the local “Mommy and Me” group where I frequently received pre-fab written invites to “bring my hubby” to parties and questionnaires asking me to describe “what responsibilities the father handled” and whether “breast feeding left my nipples sore.“ It was almost enough to make me tear off my apron and cancel my Rachel Ray subscription. But I persevered because it was good for my son.

Likewise, Robbie still completed his survey because it was good for bodyboarders. He recognized that wave-riders can only win these fights by working together as single ‘user group.’ That the enemy isn’t a “sea sweeper” or “goat boater" — or even a “butt wiggler" or "wigglestick.’ (That's what spongers call surfers, according to my speed bump buddy Ryan Rhodes — pictured above thanks to Mickey "2M" McCarthy). It’s companies and people who sees the ocean as a financial resource to exploit or covet at the expense of others. In other words, he understands what I was talking about almost a year go when I wrote the piece that first spawned Surf-First. Probably better than I do.

See below for our full back-and-forth. And thanks, Robbie, for both the reality check and encouraging fellow spongers to finally stand up — at least when it comes to defending all of our rights.

-----Original Message-----
From: RG
Subject: re: Surf survey

Hey there~ I took your survey and as a waverider and ocean lover, I was happy to contribute to your study. However, as a bodyboarder, I was incensed at your slant toward standup surfing & surfboards, which is a pervasive slant on most wave report websites.

Bodyboarding is a global sport with contests, stars of its own, magazines and tons of devotees. We go surf our favorite breaks, support their local economies and buy all the merchandise in the mags, from wetsuits to surfwear, sunglasses to shoes, and still there is this kind of social apartheid that we are separate and unequal.

This has to stop; the ocean we love needs us to band together and help her be healthy and survive. From global warming we'll get rising seas and every wave we know will be altered beyond recognition; an imaginary hierarchy where stand-up surfing rules all does nothing but stroke egos and marginalize your brothers of the ocean. Include bodysurfers, skimboarders, kitesurfers and yes, even stand-up paddleboarders and we can all be a powerful force to protect the resource we all depend on for the activity we love.


-----Original Message-----

From: Walker, Matt
Subject: RE: Surf survey

first rg: thank you for taking the survey; your input is crucial to its accuracy and success
second: allow me to apologize for the 'institutional prejudice'. we do put 'bodyboarders' on the first page, but i'm sure the survey still suffers from slanted phrasing (stuff i may not even notice)

if we get another chance at doing it, i'll got through and try to make it more balanced. and at the risk at sounding even more 'insensitive': some of my best friends are spongers

thanks again for your help
much, much appreciated

-----Original Message-----
From: RG
Subject: Re: Surf survey

Hey there Matt~ awesome to hear from you, thanks for the reply; I am interested to see how the results of the survey turn out. I actually had written a slightly longer piece which I encapsulated in my letter to you. I buy your mag often on newsstands, usually when going on a plane somewhere, and dig your coverage of all things surfing, though I realize there is still an anti-bodyboarding pulse among surfers out there, which is a shame. Wish there was a cool article where some bodyboarders and surfers got together, rode waves, maybe did some humanitarian goodness out there too~ Mike Stewart and Kelly Slater head to head on a sick Tahitian slab? A boosting contest with Jeff Hubbard and Dane Reynolds? Something to show people having fun regardless of the board they ride.

We need less enemies, and all the friends we can get. I respect Surfing mag and knowing some of your best friends are spongers is a heartening fact (though I think we are called "dick-draggers" nowadays, which is only unfortunate for the ladies of bodyboarding). I'm sure you can understand that as a bodyboarder, checking Surfline (or Wetsand or Swellwatch etc) and seeing our sport practically ignored is rough. All our US pro riders could use the industry support and sponsorship that stand up surfers get but they all struggle here; in Australia, Brazil and the rest of the world, they are well regarded and taken care of. It's a shame to see but it doesn't have to be that way. Aside from different boards, every company that advertises in Surfing mag appeals to bodyboarders. And yet, Bodyboarding Magazine struggles for support and advertising sponsors. It doesn't have to be that way. Some feel that the Surfing Industry doesn't want bodyboarding to gain market share amongst new wave riders, perhaps after seeing what Snowboarding did to Skiing. Bodyboarding is easier to "get" at first but is in no way a "stepping stone" to standing up, as it's made out to be by stand up surfers. Both sports can and do coexist well.

I know that erasing the social boundaries between surfers and bodyboarders can only benefit our common causes. Joining further with other ocean-related organizations (scuba, etc) can only make us a stronger and more effective force. We all love the ocean and for her sake, I hope we all can not just get along but really unite.

Anyhow, whatever the cause, whatever the history, all divides among waveriders need to be put aside for the Ocean, who needs us all united and out in force.

Off to surf waist high waves with a smile...

Robbie "G-Nutz" Gennet