Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku was the gold-medal Olympian who introduced surfing to the world with missionary zeal. He welcomed other surfers to his home with aloha that could spark up a dead sun. In short, this Hawaiian man gave back the immeasurable joy he received from the ocean. With interest.
Since the Duke’s death in 1968, the surfing world has become infected with varying degrees of localism, with looking at the world in ways that make it smaller. In the Canary Islands, soulful ex-world champ gets pelted with rocks by crazed black-belt bodyboarders. At that desert place in South Oz, tents are burnt and cameras smashed. At Angourie, Nat Young’s eye-sockets get punched almost through his brain. And, of course, Ours is definitely not Yours.
Elsewhere, windscreens are waxed. Tourists get burnt, faded, ordered to paddle in or ‘sorted out’ on the beach. Or, in my case, told if I ever returned to South Oz, I’d be a dead man (heh, been back four times since).
Now imagine: a world where all surfers travel. Hitting the road is what surfers live for (in this particular fantasy world of mine, anyway). Wherever we roam in this true surfers’ paradise, locals greet us with warm, genuine smiles. They ask us where we’re from and where we’re going. And they’re interested in our answers. After calling us into a few plum sets at their prime local break (there are no secret spots here), they invite us around for a BBQ, shout us beers, offer us their lounges and introduce us to their cute twin sisters (or brothers, depending on your orientations).
And when these locals, or any surfers for that matter, pass through our towns or cities, we return the favour. Happily. In the process, we become better surfers, because we’re riding a wider range of waves and encountering new surfing styles, equipment and philosophies of life. We concentrate like never before on wave-riding because our energy isn’t squandered acting aggressively territorial on our turf and paranoid on others’. All the while, we’re becoming better people, wiser even, as we experience Planet Earth’s staggering range of cultures, music, food and beer. Plus, with all that lounge sleeping, everyone’s saving coin on digs.
Flower power fantasy? DC running out of ideas? Just plain insane? Sure.
And yet… why not? Every surfer is a member of the tribe Nat Young famously said (in his early ‘70s Zen phase). We’re all part of a brotherhood that transcends borders, logos, religions and other skin-deep crap. Doesn’t matter if you’re a frothing grom or ride Stone Age longboards badly. Beneath our crippling deficiencies, we’re all brothers and sisters.
As a united tribe, we can heal through passion and weight of numbers our planet’s gangrenous wounds! We can rattle ballot boxes!
Dream on, Gandhi.
Truth is, we’ve narrowed the sport of kings to the level of piss-duelling tom-cats. Sadly, with a few admirable exceptions, this is a world of anti-Dukes now.
Caption: Happy-go-lucky world traveller Gony Zubizarreta reaps the karmaic rewards of his positive mental approach in Les Landes. Photo: Alex Laurel