Wednesday, 27 February 2008
RIDING THE WAVE OF PROGRESS
A few weeks ago, during my schools half term, I traveled to London, Oxford and Northampton for several daft reasons. With texts and phone calls from my mates and father I was constantly reminded of the fact I was missing some ‘epic waves’.
The truth is I didn’t actually need those texts and calls from home to remind me of the surf I was missing. Armed with my laptop – by my side for emergency ‘tales from the tube' use, as well as my new gadget, the new I touch, I had all the equipment needed to keep track of the surf. It was so ridiculous that not only could I write the forecast for the surf and weather, despite being over 300 miles away, I actually watched people I knew run past the camera at the Chapel Idne surf shop on their way to that ‘Epic Session’.
I shouldn’t really be that surprised, we are part of a generation where technology improves by the minute and new becomes old and ‘passé’ even before the credit card has time to clear.
What really did surprise me was the way in which surfing has progressed almost as much as the fore mentioned technology. Shops and surf stores run by large brands as well as independent traders seem to be sprouting in some of the most bizarre areas. As I exited a lift to a shopping mall in Northampton (a town considered the furthest from any sea) I was confronted with a massive Roxy Life/Quiksilver store. Home from home some people may suggest, but when surf boards and wetsuits are for sale in areas where people have never seen the sea at prices most surfers would never pay, you start to doubt the morality of these larger brands. Having said this that’s just the way surfing seems to be heading.
As a beneficiary of the surfing industry and keen to promote the sport to all-willing to participate, I have no problems with the rate of growth the sport is currently witnessing. What is interesting is where this is happening and who is responsible for it. Readers of the ‘Surfing Magazine’ may have seen an article last month on the surf in China. Visited by a handful of professional American surfers they traveled to some of the longest beaches in the country where lifeguards resembled Tahitian watermen and yet had never surfed before. These virgin breaks were teaming with Chinese locals in the summer months, but on nothing more than arm bands and a lilo. Despite small but ride able surf, China is one of many countries that small groups of surfers are traveling each year in order to find un-crowded breaks. It seems ironic then that the most populated country in the world also has some of the quietest beaches.
As I wondered through central London I was also aware of the extreme success of one of surfing's first pop-music stars –Jack Johnson. With billboards plastered with Jacks new album cover, he became a household name in recent years and only this month shot straight to number one in the album charts with his new album ‘sleep through the static’. Many people would argue Jack became known through the playtime in café’s, bars and clubs in Cornwall. Like quicksilver, Animal, O’Neill etc, Jack Johnson has received more coverage and success from parts of the country where surfing is nothing more than an activity during their two-week holiday.
For those in the industry this is an exciting time. Surfing is possibly Britain’s fastest growing sport and not necessarily in Cornwall. Did I mention plans to build an artificial wave in London?... Next time!