A Dance with the Past

From one angle, surfing's retro movement looked like beach-hipster fashion wankery. But it also tapped into a broader desire among surfers everywhere for an alternative way to surf—one that didn't involve competition, ratings, logo overkill, and gratuitous aggression.

Surfing began to retrieve and recycle its past in the early 1980s, when the longboard was so enthusiastically put back into play, and the process continued with the return of big-wave riding. The sport was broader, more interesting, and more inclusive for these efforts. Introduced in the '90s, the “retro movement” began as a half-ironic trek to the soul-surfing headwaters of the late-'60s and '70s...

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