it's about life - not "lifestyle"
sports illustrated hit it good
While struggling to make the human connection early on the morning of Ash Wednesday, trying to caffinate out the last evil dregs of a combination of the Mardi Gras party and the horrors of watching the WB Frog kill off Buffy The Vampire Slayer's mom, I came across the 2001 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. I was hoping nothing would be in 3D this year, just to spare my head, but that thought sent me on a fifteen minute search through the archives for something which I hadn't completely forgotten about but had never done anything with.

The Y2K swimsuit issue was heavy on the use of surf imagery. It had a fluff piece about Kelly Slater teaching some model how to surf in Hawaii while she was trying to keep her hair dry or something. Slater laughs all the way to the bank, again. Some retirement. The cool things is I don't think anybody begrudges him for a bit of it. He is One Of Us, after all,  despite his apparent superhuman ability in the water. It's hard to take potshots at a guy like him.

"I could be as good as he is, if..."

If what? You'd been born in Florida and surfed the Inlet? That kind of sniping won't play, the assumption ludicrous; the exercise would be pointless. Let him drive the rented muscle car with the longboard and the SI swimsuit model all around Oahu, probably earning more money doing it than some of us might have in the previous two months. If Real Surfers saw Slater drive by under those circumstances they should laugh and give the "thumbs up" sign.

The meatier piece, and subject of this essay, was a feature article on the life and times of Laird Hamilton. This has been done half to death in the surf media, but it's always fun to get the secular view on things. Yet what I found from writer Jeff MacGregor in "Safety Last" was probably the best article having to do with the surfing life I've ever seen in the non-surf media - and maybe with the exception of some SURFER'S JOURNAL pieces it was probably as meaningful as anything from within the Orange Curtain.

The key thing was his take on surfing and its place in our culture.

"Surfing will never be the Next Big Thing. Surfing suffers from its own recent traditions: the submoronic exploitation movies, the half-baked hash-brownie mysticism, the low-rent territoriality of the San Fernando Valley versus Zuma Beach. It has a long, storied history in the Pacific, is a sport for kings, but it remains beneath mainland consciousness except as the fashion inspiration behind really baggy clothes and as the goofball pursuit of willowy, ill-behaved West Coast teens. That's why it's relegated to time-killer cable slots and artless fanzines. That's why you've never heard of these guys."

MacGregor wasn't bagging on surfers. His audience was the SI audience, probably over 99% non-surfing. What he did was give a tremendously insightful view of what is currently the most spectacularly visible part of contemporary wave riding and the surfer who is the most visible respresentative of it - the Jaws tow-in experience and Laird Hamilton. MacGregor is not being disrespectful to the sport and certainly not to surfers, as evidenced by the final sentence of the same paragraph previously quoted.

"(That's why you've never heard of these guys.) You can say this for them, though: When was the last time you saw an NFL player sleeping next to the stadium in a clapped-out minitruck so he could get in there as soon as the sun came up?"

MacGregor's take on the surfing experience as seen by both surfers and non-surfers alike is amazingly on. I know nothing about the author, but I suspect Mr. MacGregor might have spent some serious time in the surf world. If not, well, he has a lot to offer. Maybe the people running pro surfing ought to check the guy out. They need someone who communicates well with the regular citizens.

The swimsuit pictures were okay, that I took some time to look at them.
Copyright 2001. All rights reserved.
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