Twice a month, on average, I fall into a state of swoon over this or that surfer, male or female, old or young, and it usually happens while piecing together a video edit. Rolf Aurness and Keala Kennelly got all up in me recently. But what I’m feeling right now for Tahitian power surfer and square-headed man of mystery Vetea David is swoon at an advanced level. I was a surf media mover and shaker 30-something years ago when Vetea came into full flower. My finger wasn’t just on the pulse of pro surfing, it was two knuckles deep. And yet I don’t recall being super impressed, at the time, by Poto’s surfing. Too busy blowing out that magnificent head of hair that I took for granted, instead of paying attention to the Sultans of Speed video, is my guess. But I’m here now to say that, had the ASP gone full Dream Tour in the late ’80s and early ’90s—Burleigh, Bells, Margaret, Jeffreys, Teahupoo, Cloudbreak, Keramas, Sunset, Pipe—Vetea and Tom Carroll could have made a small bunker out of their collective world title trophies. And Poto, friend to all, would’ve been on the Nobel Peace Prize shortlist. Watch the video. And chase it with Nick Carroll’s excellent profile. They pair well.
“A Dance with the Past,” the latest History of Surfing chapter, takes a look at the Retro movement, mostly by way of Joel Tudor. As you may or may not know, Tudor over the past 10 or 12 years has, with mixed results, become a strong candidate for Angriest Man in Surfing. I think he also has a strong case as the sport’s Great Emancipator. In the ’90s, Tudor singlehandedly made longboarding cool, and he could have easily cruised on that one accomplishment till Kahuna called him home. But instead he took that buttery-smooth riding style of his, and a very attractive no-fucks-given attitude (which I think was at least partly contrived, as it was with Dora, but so what, credit to both of them for staying in the public eye) and built out a quiver filled with fish, and hulls, and Pipeline-ready pintail guns. Joel did it all, beautifully and defiantly and with great panache, which meant we could now all unshackle ourselves from the standard three-fin performance board and ride whatever we wanted, stigma-free. (Other people could, anyway. I didn’t. I held onto my standard three-fin performance board quiver like Judge Roy Moore holding onto the Ten Commandments. For that matter, I continued to stigmatize those who strayed. And thus screwed myself out of who knows how many good sessions. Regrets, I have a few.) So cheers to Joel Tudor, who looked back, turned around, and gave us a freer and more varied surfing future.
Here’s a little vignette from Jax Beach, 1964. featuring surfers, cops and lifeguards, all running around on a sweaty-hot summer afternoon, for reasons that longtime EOS subscriber Thomas Atlee explains in the accompanying text. Why is surfing so much more attractive (to me, anyway) when non-surfers either don’t like or don’t understand us? I’ll pick this subject up at another date; I’ve been wondering about this for years. Riding a wave feels just as amazing one way or the other, never mind if the people on the beach want to cheer us or arrest us, right? I guess it comes down to surfers being more interesting, and having better stories to tell, when we had to go against the grain. Or am I off base?
Finally, I promised a couple of weeks ago to let you know about Brad Melekian’s long-simmering book on Andy Irons, but I have nothing to report as I haven’t yet heard back from Brad. Will let you guys if he gets in touch.
Thanks everybody, and see you next week!
[Photos: Tom Servais, Paul Sargeant]