Once, the tuberide was as infathomable as Hawkings’ flexiverse cosmos. Did time stand still inside a wave? Did time go backwards? Did a rider’s hearing mysteriously vanish once the curl of a wave peeled over his head? Could a surfer theoretically stay young by getting tubed often? And what about foamballs and shockwaves and waves that spat inward – fact or fantasy?
The Mystery of the Tube, particularly in its slow motion form on a cinema screen, was an indulgence that worked because it fed careers, gave surfing magazines something metaphysical to pontificate about (besides the enlightening nature of mary-jane) and created heroes out of otherwise unremarkable human beings. Why? Because they’d been there, baby!
And then along came the bodyboarders, the jetskis, the successful conquest of mutant ledges by even average surfers and Tom Lochtefeld’s standing wave. Suddenly, a six-foot, five-second tube wasn’t radical anymore. Suddenly, it was way more thrilling for Slater to launch a flat rotation at Pipe than make a 10-foot barrel. Suddenly, dorks were were eating their lunch inside five-minute Flowrider tubes, emerging from their lair to launch kick-flips and rodeos. And, most brutally, old farts wearing two life vests were suddenly claming tubes bigger than anything Lopez would’ve touched at Pipe.
Why, where, how? Discuss.
The bodyboarders: Thirty years ago, the tuberide was the preserve of expert surfers on leashless single-finned surfboards. In Hawaii, at Kirra, along the reefs of Indonesia, these men would disappear for one, two, even three seconds at a time and emerge to rapturous applause from their filmers. Then along came Tom Morey’s boogieboard and its patron saint Mike Stewart who began riding deeper and longer inside tubes than anyone before him. For the first time in history, a surfer began talking intimately and prosaically about the innermost workings of the tube – what he could see, what he felt, about the shock wave, and all in a calm manner alien to the hipped-out, acid-dropping surfer. Goodbye to the tube as the key to the gates of enlightenment.
Butch and the Gay Caballeros aka tow teams: Any fool alive can ride a 10-foot tube, whether Teahupoo or Ours, if dragged over the ledge by a Yamaha or SeaDoo. Even I’ve ridden a death ledge tube at Ours – but only because I’d avoided the difficult part of the transaction, the takeoff. What once cost a lifetime of skill and bravado can now be had as easily as a grande soy latte from Starbucks. Goodbye scarcity of experience.
Lochtefeld’s Standing Wave: Seventeen years ago, American Tom Lochtefeld made a prototype standing wave. Submerged propeller pumps juiced water over a foam bank creating a permanent tube that allowed a man to experience tubular bliss for however long he desired. A couple of hour’s practice and any clown could ride the endless tube, the surfing equivalent of affixing suction cups to the pubis mons and experiencing a never-ending orgasm. Why on earth would you travel to the world’s biggest Muslim nation (Indonesia) in troubled times when you can have a numerically superior experience at a wave park?
Well, why would you? The answer, goodness help me, requires the abuse of surf cliché and a descent into platitudes that’d normally only fill the pages of The Surfers Path. The tube still matters, y’see, because nothing beats a clean run into a good tube. When the wall curves over your head, when the world turns into a Dave Troyer photo, when there’s a friend screaming from the channel with his arms raised in the air (oh, joyous cliché!), when out of the corner of your eye you see water draining off a rock shelf, when, for a second, maybe two or three, you’re at the top of the food chain. Cue raised heart beat, cue internal screaming.
The tube is dead; long live the tube.