Saturday, March 16, 2013

Parko and the Bird

I did say this blog would discuss all things surfing, so this week let's take a little break from discussing boards and meander into the world of competitive surfing.  In terms of full disclosure, I have never competed in a surf competition.  The whole idea of "competition" and surfing seems a bit odd to me, but I admit that I love watching the best surfers in the world battle it out.  Last week was the first ASP tour event of the year taking place on the Gold Coast in Australia and it did not disappoint.  First, because it was a Quiksilver event you got ASP tour dropout, competition hater, and free surfer extraordinaire Dane Reynolds in the show.  If you weren't aware, in December 2011 Dane posted his "Letter of Independence."  It was a letter of resignation from the ASP tour.  I have to admit, I loved it when Dane walked away (unlike many other surfers).  It just seemed that he did it for all the right reasons.  For me, here was the paragraph that said it all:

and so here i am. 26. officially off tour. wasted talent. blown potential. refusing responsibility. ‘all he wants to do is sit at home and play with crayons and ride fucked up boards.’ but wait! but wait! that’s not true! don’t listen to chris mauro. he’s a dinosaur. doesn’t get it. this may be the end as a wct contender, but its also a new beginning. i feel like a baseball. the skins been carefully pried off and there’s a thread and i’m gonna pull it and i’m gonna end up a pile of string on the floor. but then maybe i’ll be knit into something more useful, like a sweater. or perhaps something beautiful, like a hand embroidered masterpiece of a deer and two fawn drinking cold clear water out of a creek. but you never know. i hope to achieve some sort of balance. yeah, i do like riding fucked up boards, but i also like doing airs and taking some aggression out on a cutback. and competings rad if you can stay inspired, but rankings and trophy’s mean very little to me. i wanna learn, i wanna make things, things of purpose, be productive. travel. new experiences. new sensations. and most importantly explore the outer limits of performance surfing. i’ll still compete. but its not going to consume me.

So Dane is not the best writer and a little quirky, but he is honest and one hell of a surfer, so I was stoked to see him at the Goldy, even if it was because Quiksilver probably held a paycheck over his head.  Tour dropout or not, Dane is still a big draw.  Yes, I thought it was great that Dane walked away so as not to be consumed by the competitive nature of the ASP, but I still love to watch him surf.  And when he does "compete" it looks more like he is in a free surf session with a buddy or two at some of the best breaks in the world.  Who wouldn't love to watch that? Eventually eliminated in the third round, it was still fun to watch him score some fantastic waves.

Then there was the side of competitive surfing that Dane was trying to avoid; the side that brings out the self-interested ass that exists within us all.  The finals came down to current tour champion Joel Parkinson (Parko) and the 11-time tour champ Kelly Slater.  It was an epic battle, but as you watched the heat it just seemed that Kelly had the upper-hand (what else is new).  So as Parko dropped in on a big, throaty barrel that he said had "12 points written all over it,"  it seemed inevitable that Kelly, with priority, would drop in down the line.  So he did and there is the source of the picture--Parko looking down the line flipping Kelly the bird.  Absolutely classic!  The picture goes viral and Parko gets tagged with the sore loser label and shows the dark side of competitive surfing; the side that has lost its soul.

But everything is not what it appears to be.  Parko was obviously frustrated, but even in the moment the gesture seemed good natured.  When asked about it after the contest Parko said, "its all good, that's what it is, competitive nature but all in a good environment."  Apparently Kelly told Parko that he should have given him the bird back--now that would have been good.  So here's my question--why are we trying to make these guys into mortal enemies? Why do we need some grand rivalry filled with disdain (but still respect) to make surfing better?  I just don't get it!  I thought Parko's response was brilliant and something we should all take to the line-up.  The reality is that we have all been dropped in on--sometimes by a buddy, sometimes by a newbie, sometimes by someone just trying to be an ass.  So what.  It may be frustrating in the moment, but it is just that, a moment.  Another wave will come and one after that too.  Isn't the point of surfing to have fun in the water? Some of the best days are those sessions where it is you and bunch of your buddies dropping in on one another, pushing each other off waves, flipping birds, and laughing the entire time.  If you ever find yourself in the line-up with a bunch of Matador/BoneYard guys you better expect this.  But also expect some great waves, good laughs and big smiles through the whole session. There is so much in life to stress over, why should surfing be one of those things. Dane had it right but so did Parko.  A quick flip of the bird, a smirk and a laugh afterwards, but in the end it is all good.  And surfing continues as one of the few things in this world that can have an element of competition but remain mostly about the experience. 

Alright, enough of my philosophical rant--next week I will get back to boards to discuss outlines and tails.  And remember, surf for fun!