“Don’t be afraid to try the newest sport around…”
— “Catch a Wave” by the Beach Boys
Turns out the Beach Boys, with the exception of their drummer, Dennis Wilson, were not surfers.
While they did, in my opinion anyway, help describe the indescribable feeling of everything from waves to woodies, surfing was not, as they sang, “the newest sport around” — surfing had existed outside of SoCal for an estimated 4,000 years.
What the Beach Boys tapped into was not the newest sport around, but the newest teen fad. Everybody was “goin’ surfin’.” Well, everyone except them and other posers. I liked and still like the Beach Boys musically. The 14-year-old me had no problem calling it a sport, but now it is what some might term a “microaggression,” whatever that is.
But looking back all these years later, surfing does not begin to fit the definition of a sport, which according to Google is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. Team sports such as baseball and soccer.”
So, it seems surfing can be a sport but only when it’s done competitively. Since most among us have never competed, surfing is not a sport to us. So, what is it?
Many use the term “lifestyle,” which seems accurate as far as it goes. But lifestyle is not as all-encompassing as surfing can be to those as addicted to it as I once was. I mean, every waking moment was dedicated to either riding or thinking about waves.
What other lifestyle does that while dictating what you wear and how you speak, while providing your life with a unique soundtrack? What lifestyle demands you give up everything to get to the heart of it?
Since lifestyle falls short, maybe trimming the second syllable of that word will do the trick. Life. Yeah, that about says it. Surfing is life. Here’s where the Beach Boys got closer when they sang, “Surfing is the only life, the only way for me…”
I must admit that surfing no longer has the pull on me it once did. It’s been many decades since I paddled out before sunrise to catch a few lonely waves. I rarely wear Pendletons and never white Levi’s or Converse tennis shoes. I never say “rad” and only sometimes “stoked.”
I can still concentrate when a north swell combines with the stiff Santa Ana wind that knocks on my door all night. I don’t surf nearly as often as I used to, and I have even considered moving inland on occasion.
But even if I were to live a thousand miles from the nearest beach, I would still be a surfer, wondering what the waves were doing, and if Peter and Rubin and Mark were out riding it while I’m hoeing my Wisconsin pea patch.
When sunny skies combined with cool winds and the Beach Boys come on the radio, I might wander far from my present landlocked reality and remember a time when surfing was everything. Everything! Not a sport. Not a lifestyle. Simply life. The best life I ever had. Thanks.