Carve Magazine Issue 204
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It’s a grey autumn day, raining cats and dogs, but out beyond the browning flowers, muddy puddles and flooding pavement, the sea is packed. The dulled brine occasionally moved by three-foot sets and a light offshore has drawn out large numbers of surfers right up the coast. Ordinarily sane people are up at dawn in torrential rain waiting to get their fix. Just one slide, one turn, maybe if there are lucky, a head dip to claim. For years I have enthusiastically espoused the benefits of surfing, and questioned what makes the pursuit of ‘stoke’ so addictive. I know some people claim there is no such thing. But I am a believer, and proof of my theory was laid out on beaches for hundreds of miles this morning. Everyone chasing their fix in what were less than perfect conditions on the global scale.
I guess some people would love surfing to be just another sport, like football or tennis. Something you can pick up or leave. Dip in and out, wear the scarves, and chant on terraces. But for the majority us, it is way more than a sport will ever be. It is an addiction, our raison d’etre to get up in the dark, to explore the world, to educate ourselves, to fight to protect the environment, to raise our physical performance and fitness, and so much more. We now have studies trying to understand why surfing makes us feel good in ways that go beyond standard endorphin release provided by jogging, and senses of achievement greater than rolling about in mud with 29 other blokes and an odd-shaped ball. When journalists were asking about Olympic inclusion, my go-to answer was always: “On any day, any surfer or any ability can feel like a gold medallist.” Is it cold water reflex? Is it ozone? Or is it something more. I have no idea. Being a product of a tight and committed surfing community I never questioned why. We all just felt it and we were all hooked from day one.
These days there is a larger surfing population, so core values have been watered down in part. But at the same time, during these weird times of stress and change there are more people addicted, and that addiction provides greater escapes and more meaning. The ‘stoke’ is real and one day I have no doubt science will prove what we already know.
This issue is full of addicts: Wales’ finest young competitive surfers, PLD and Logan, who are up at dawn every day and chasing dreams, no matter the conditions. James Hendy, who has always worked to surf, starting sanding surfboards under a tarp, but has ended up living on the Bukit as a surf brand executive. Jack Johns, surf stoked grom who is now a regular Condé Nast cover shooter. Al Mackinnon, whose job is it is to try and encapsulate inspiring surf travel. And of course, the British and Irish surf photographers who capture moments that burn like super novas in the sky maps of our lives.
What connects you, and me to them is that we are all chasing the fix. We are all chasing ’stoke’. Even those who are in denial. It’s for the best if we all just hold our hands up and admit it. We are addicted.