“Surf in a Box,” the second-to-last History of Surfing chapter, went up on Tuesday. This is the wavepool section, and I’ve been very much not looking forward to this one, because a) it needed a lot of work, and b) like you guys, by this point I’m a little sick of talking about wavepools. Had to be done, though. Now remember, this section was drafted over ten years ago, before the wavepool deal achieved any kind of real liftoff. The 2006 pic you see below, of the Ron Jon SurfPark prototype in Orlando, Florida, ran as a two-page spread in the book version of History of Surfing and was meant to serve as a snarky-but-not-totally-false summation of the wavepool movement that time.
Here is the text that ran alongside the Ron Jon picture, and knowing what you probably know about my feelings on pools, you better believe I felt all lofty and righteous as I pieced these sentences together back in 2008:
The wavepool’s problems seemed almost existential. Why was there no high-end, tricked-out, wave-making pleasure place in Orlando or anywhere else? Maybe because it was already exactly where it belonged—in the fantasy-prone surfer’s imagination. Or maybe because the sport’s immune system, although compromised, is strong enough nonetheless, to repel this kind of blueprinted finely calibrated fakery. Perhaps surfing hasn’t seen the last of its better self.
Keep in mind I was but a stripling of 48 at the time, callow and busting with surf-world idealism. Well, no longer. Last week I killed that paragraph faster than the Letterkenny gang slamming a round of shots, then cracked my knuckles and banged out an HOS update that included Wavegarden, Surf Ranch, Waco, and the rest of our recent dystopia-bound developments. Then I heaved a sigh and murmured the lazy-thinkers’ psalm: It is what it is.
That left just one final History of Surfing chapter to post, which, ten years ago, I had cheekily titled, “The End of History.” This was both a short summary of the book itself, and (although not obvious to me at the time) a final summary of my own feelings about surfing. The last two paragraphs, which I’ve included below, are wavepool-free and, again, idealistic. But fuck it, I’m not deleting or editing. I posted the send-off just as you see it. This is the sport I love, and this is how I choose to go out (with HOS, that is), and if they pull my Surf Historians Guild card, I’ll just have to live with that.
Spotlight, please. Ahem.
No violation against surfing history is committed by pointing out that eras, movements, innovators, and champions are all secondary ways in which our sport defines and distinguishes itself. What counts the most—the only thing that counts, in the final tally—is the ocean setting. The sport is attached to the hem of a natural force so vast it can drain the power from a howling continent-sized storm, refine it, and deliver it ten days and 3,000 miles later in a smooth and elegant ocean-going processional.
For a few seconds at a time we get to ride that current. Surf history is so many banners and streamers waving from this single, incredible natural fact.
Thanks for reading, everybody, and talk to you next week!
[Photos: Jimmy Wilson, Matt George, Ron Stoner]