|I have long promised, even threatened, to write this article. There never was going to be any money in it, no glory, no kudos from the bros. What this is about is a small bit of injustice done 30 years ago. It's about a man who was king but the kingdom vanished; a champion created by acclaim but who almost immediately became invisible, lost in the shimmer of the "60's" while the "60's" were already fading away.
In the infancy of modern competitive surfing the World Championship was held once every two years or so, and featured representatives of every surfing country in the world who could afford to travel to the venue. The very first was held in Australia in 1964. In 1965 I think it was Peru. In 1966 the contest was held in San Diego, California, and won by Nat Young - it's famous for initiating the shortboard revolution. In 1968 Puerto Rico was the call, and this gathering featured the last gasp of the longboard and transition designs. By 1970 in Australia the locals were riding super short boards, while Californian Rolf Aurness whacked them on a mid-seven footer, which set the stage for a pendulum swing back to more manageable lengths.
As you can see from that shallow, brief overview, during this period surfing was undergoing a huge amount of change, making every contest an epicenter for the whole surfing world. This was, of course, the one period in surfing which saw the most radical change. This is frequently portrayed as having been a result of the era, given the radical changes Western society was going through, but I don't think "the 60's" were as important to surfing as much as the fact surfing had reached a certain state in a maturing process.
The guys who got into surfing in between 1955 and 1960 had, by 1968, between 8 and 13 years of experience. They were fully conversant with foam and fiberglass technology and not burdened with wooden concepts - but many had been there for at least balsa and knew there was a difference. They were simply at a point in their surfing lives where they had the skills and knowledge to contribute to design and manufacturing improvements. It was as much, or more, about surfing and surfers being in the right evolutionary stage as it was about societal revolution.
By the time the 1972 World Contest came around surfboard design was all over the place, everywhere in fact except into longboards. Even tri-fins had been briefly popular in Hawaii in 1971. California was about to enter a period of return to length as the surf culture shuddered to accomodate increasing numbers of participants and the nearing onset of "the leash". A full blown surfing "back to the land" retreat was about to take place. And in the midst of this, in the San Diego area, emerged The Fish.
The surf media was struggling, professionalism was entering the ranks of surf contests, and the major thinkers of the era were also struggling to figure it all out. Into this yawning chasm of fury came October 1972, and San Diego was host city for surfing's own Ground Zero. Surfers from all over the world flew into California, a monster south swell came, and winners were chosen. Surfing would be affected by this event for years to come; in many ways the course it took for decades was set in motion. Such was the influence of the World Championships back when they were held but one time, once every two years.
It's about life - not "lifestyle"
1972 WORLD CHAMPION
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