Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's All About The Stick

The next wave or back to basics? Janet Cromley analyses the new trend in Southern California surfing for the L.A.Times:
What's Laird Hamilton doing with that stick? Adding a little Zen to his workout. In surfing's new twist, you go with the flow, standing up [...] Dipping his paddle into the swells, Hamilton maneuvers along the breakers, occasionally riding them in — but without ever lying or sitting on his board.
A small but perceptible shift has occurred in the Southern California surfing community. Seasoned surfers and neophytes alike are now grabbing paddles and taking to the water from a stand-up position. [...] Although no one is certain how the style gained ground, the person most likely responsible is Hamilton, the big-wave legend known for popularizing countless innovations, including tow-in surfing and foilboarding. [more]
Hamilton's fashion du jour is a throwback to the origins of surfing. As Cromley writes, "Through the ages, many cultures have practiced the art of standing and paddling, including Polynesians and Peruvians".

Surfing was practiced for thousands of years in Polynesia. A fact often forgotten because "Beginning in 1821, surfing was almost completely eliminated by European Christian missionaries," writes Nancy Schiffer in Surfing. "[They] considered it an immoral form of amusement and suppressed it along with much else in the Hawaïan culture. By the time surfing was revived around the turn of the twentieth century, there were only a handful of Hawaïan surfers left".

Then surfing took off again -- and the surf culture with it. It became increasingly commercial in the past two decades, to the point that when you see a dude all clad in Quicksilver, you know he's more a poseur than a real surfer. However, there seems to be a trend for a return to the roots of surfing, as evidenced by the Malloy Brothers', or Wes Brown's more natural approach to the sport. Art. Lifestyle. Which makes Hamilton's departure from his usual lust for techno-gear all the more interesting.
photo Anne Cusack/LAT

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