What Do The Grommets, Surf Industry and Big Waves Of The Future Really Look Like?
I ran into Danny Wills the other day, who famously as a grommet uttered the immortal phrase, “Grommets? Grommets are the future!” Danny isn’t a grommet anymore and was actually in the process of taking a longboard off the roof of the car when I caught up with him, but he still possesses the requisite energy and enthusiasm for surfing that defines the species. For over a decade now, there’s been a shift that a friend of mine termed “the quickening”. Kids are getting better, earlier. Twelve-year-olds are doing things 20-year-olds used to do. You only have to look as far as your Instagram account today to see children surfing Waimea. And while the rest of the world helicopter parent their kids, we’re throwing ours out into waves we’d never have dreamed of surfing when we were that age. The fact that the best surfer in the world today was the best grommet in the world not so long ago (and surfed Waimea at age eight) is totemic. The age of the grommet is dawning again.
When we embarked on the exercise of putting together a “future issue” the editor and I had a conversation about the great surfing futurists of the now. It was a very short conversation. Someone might have said Burch, but then there was a silence. When we say “futurist” here the implied meaning is something more than Felipe Toledo simply alley-ooping at J-Bay. Names like Horan and Hynd, Slater and Webber, Greenough and Lynch all sprung to mind. We’re talking someone who thinks in surfboard outlines, planes, vectors, currents, flow, form, function and hard science. Someone who deplores conformity and incremental improvement and will sacrifice short-term steps for long-term giant leaps forward. Someone who sees things that aren’t there yet. Someone who, in their own mind, is already living a decade in the future. My favourite quote in regards to a futurist is attributable to surfing’s seminal historian, Matt Warshaw. “It seemed as if Wayne Lynch had just fallen out of the sky, after a long visit to the future.”
THE SURF INDUSTRY
Again, it seems as if we’re already living in the future here, with the recent merger of Quiksilver and Billabong under the one roof, creating the biggest surf company the world. That deal seemed like something that could only have happened in the future, and yet here we are. In surfing, bigger has rarely proved better however. Surfing might prove an anomaly, the only industry where economies of scale work against you in the marketplace. Regardless of whether the new deal works out, it’s clear that with a some big trees gone from the rainforest, there’s plenty of sunshine on the forest floor.
Last week, on consecutive days, we saw Nazaré, Peahi and Mavericks surfed close to their surfable limits, if they indeed have surfable limits. We’re currently living through a big wave surfing epoch that will, in time, be recorded as historic. Watching Nazaré in particular it’s become clear that whatever the ocean throws up, dudes will be more than willing – and capable – of surfing it. So where does it go from here? Maybe it’s less a case of what’s being ridden, and more who is out there riding it. Have you noticed in the past few years the number of local guys paddling out on big days riding big ol’ sticks? The big wave game will no longer be the sole preserve of the globetrotting Big Wave Dave, as more local guys pull into the car park armed to the teeth with big wave hardware and vests and start slaying dragons half a mile out to sea.
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