Change is an inevitable process that every walk of life will learn to appreciate. For surfing, change has created a more volatile sport, transforming what once was an artistic expression into what is now a competitive rivalry. As competition is overtaking such a relaxed and casual sport, it is blowing out of the water in professional and scholastic associations. Now the groms aren’t inspired to surf because of the ancient traditional and cultural values it encompasses, but because they strive to surf hard and surpass their elders, bringing new tricks and aggressive style.
The birth of “skate-like” tricks performed on waves has taken surfing to an athletic level never before experienced. This new edge has allowed the competition element of surfing to grow exponentially in the past decade. While some hold true to surfing for the mere contentment of the soul, others are striving to surf for fame.
The idea of surf competitions is great: to appreciate those best at the sport. But how can this truly be executed when competitions are held in 30-knot winds and one- to two-foot swells? Those who steer clear of competing in the sport stay true to themselves, surfing for no one other than a buddy that catches a glimpse of their killer ride. The feeling of someone watching you on a wave that you personally didn’t even see coming can usually beat the high pressure and unsatisfactory conditions of a surf contest. Although this low-stress surf environment will almost always guarantee a positive turnout, one who never competes will never experience the high of such a crucial and competitive environment.
Competition has its own fallacies, as not every day is a good day to compete. An experienced surfer will sit in the line up until the best wave comes along for them to rip hard and expose their skill. When that perfect wave never comes, a better rider can look unskilled and lose a contest without catching a wave while a new-comer can come in first by taking every crap wave that passes by.
Free surfing and contest surfing are close to two separate ideals. One is a hobby, the other an aggressive sport. Free surfing remains an expression, a passion, a ritualistic activity that generations have grown close to over time. Surfing developed as a dance in the waves as the Polynesians brought the tradition to the islands of Hawaii. As soon as the Europeans influenced their take on the sport, a progressive and competitive flame has taken over. Now the guy sitting next to you out in the line up is no longer your brother bonded by a common devotion to the waves, but the next opponent you better show up to prove those waves are indeed yours.
Most commonly these days, the guy cutting you off isn’t a respected elder where you can justify in your head, “He needed that wave, who knows how much longer he’ll be able to surf.” Now all you see is this midget on a board, probably around the age of 10-12, who is throwing in more tricks than you conceived possible on such a wave. The competitive edge that the groms have adapted to is the most recent addition to surfing – something the legendary surfers wouldn’t have dreamed probable.
Surfing is constantly evolving and competition has jumped in for the ride. Instead of surfing purely for one’s own satisfaction, surfing style is compared and judged, ridiculed by every turn. Competitions have been held all over the world, allowing surfers to master all known surf breaks and claim titles never before known to man. The next step in surfing is yet to be seen, but by the looks of the unstoppable groms, this up and coming generation is bringing the heat.