The expectation of parents is a major pressure point on young surfers.
The saddest and most frustrating thing about surfing and sports in general is watching young athletes with talent never reach their potential. Surfing history is littered with these ‘bad boy tragics’ who believe they don’t have to pull the hard yards so vital to competitive success.
This is how it happens. Some frothing sponsor who thinks that talent alone is the prerequisite to fame elevates the said talented 14 year old by putting a big black brand sticker on the kid’s board. In some cases when the grom shows discipline, commitment, grit and character, the talent is harnessed and process of climbing through the ranks begins.
Conversely, some take the sponsorship as a ticket to ride to rock stardom among their peers. Adulation for doing an air reverse on a two foot wave is misguidedly acknowledged as future greatness. The next step, as has happened so often, is these ‘tragics’ think its cool to buck the system and flip their fingers at the hard, hard work that is required.
In some cases, and there have been many, arrogance and stupidity spirals downward into the dark world of substance abuse and even worse.
Talent is god given, but in today’s world of professional sport, including surfing, its just not enough. If you scan the surfing communities across the globe, you’ll find loads and loads of highly talented young surfers on a mission. Thousands. Kids who will spend all day in the water and then go out again just before dark. Working their talent, honing their skills, dreaming of a slot on the CT.
Right now, there are some super smart surfers breaking into the tour. Young surfers with sus that transcends their years. Kanoa Igarashi comes to mind. He leads the vanguard. He’s not interested in cultivating an anti-establishment profile, but rather of working out how to win every heat. The scary thing is that he’s just one of many with the same ferocious attitude who will move heaven and earth to climb up the rankings.
Do you think that Kelly, Mick, Twiggy, Adriano and John John Florence won their titles on talent alone? To find out, take a look at what they do on a daily basis away from cameras to achieve their goals. If you’re looking for a role model forget the more charismatic surfers and look to Adriano. He’s a machine.
Take Chris Knutsen – Four times world champion. A guy who saw the light early and dedicated himself to the task. Steely eyed focus on the task at hand is what you get from Chris. It would have been easy for him to be a counter culture hero, the time and space in which he grew up was thick with dark stars. But he knew what it took and applied himself and the rest is history.
So good luck to those who think that because they’re legends in their own lunchtime in some backwater of the surfing world, glory will come without being dedicated and smart. A kid’s first trip to Australia to compete is a rude awakening of the most excruciating kind. Hot groms are dime a dozen in Ozland.
Mikey Dora, with all his infinite artistry, is often lauded as a big counter culture hero, but if you look closer, all he achieved was notoriety and not much else. Talent untapped. It’s dumb to think that this antiquated ‘counterculture’ thinking has anything to do with the world of competitive surfing in 2017.
And if you can’t cut it in compo’s, to believe that the sponsor is going to be so entertained by your reel that he will turn you into a traveling video show, is just as dumb. Those days are gone and besides how much talent, charisma and/or big nuts does it take to be one of the chosen few who make their living doing sumptuous branded surf videos? Taylor Steele won’t be coming knocking – frothing to put you in his latest movie unless you’re as good as Dane Reynolds or Craig Anderson.
Shaun Tomson’s book ‘The Surfer’s Code’ has twelve life lessons. They’re all valid. The one that strikes a cord most forceful goes like this:
“I will never fight a rip tide: The danger of pride and egotism’.
As the great man often says; “you can fight your way though the jungle or you can use a road map”. That road map winds its way through Gritsville, Determination City, Commitmentvale and Smart Town. The final destination is ‘Self Realization’, a much more difficult but rewarding journey than going to ‘Crash and Burn’.
Well written but you keft out the most important point that matters and that is propper management and professional psycological approach with our SA surfers. The fact that you are a good surfer/shaper does not make one a good manager or coach. Nowadays managers study a 3 yr degree in sport management to have the basics to manage a pro spirts man/girl. This is where our sport people fall off the band wagon!!!!!we csn even see it in this country’s biggest sport i.e. rugby!!!!!!
Personally. The journey of surfing from art-form to competitive money based culture is a sad oddesy.
I recall the 1st Gunston 500.
Sad as it was inevitably great.
Shuan has always been nothing less than an elevated metaphorical scholar & a gentlen man.
Surfing with Graham Smith, Jordy’s dad is a colourful memory too.
The pure connectivity with self & the ocean will always be the most potent sanctuary for me.
I belong to the fringes. In allways. (sic)
As mike ginsberg stated on his “natural curve” surfboards at the time:
“May the wings of surfing never lose a feather.”
Life is a vulture, mostly.
Great article. How I wish I had the advice of older,seasoned surfers whilst growing up. I 2 fell ” victim ” to the ” I’m 2 cool for school ” syndrome. All my mates would be in total ore of my surfing abilities and were always singing my praises. I started drinking beers at a young age and that was that…. surfing went for a ball and over time I went from hero 2 zero. The same guys who sang my praises now wanted little to do with me. Life lesson learnt. Glad to say I’m clean and surf everyday. Not to impress anyone but because I love surfing. Peace brothers.
Yip, on the button. I got an Aussie ex pro friend who stayed with me when out surfing the Gunston who had the benefit of a wise Father, who told him at a young age that he could go on Tour but not until he had a Trade first. This incentivised him to get his trade as young as he could, and have that behind him. It obviously did not take that much away from his surfing ability as he still surfed as good as 80% of the field, but that 80% don’t cut it to make a living let alone Tradie’s coin. Where’s he now? Plying his Trade and doing very well. A close mutual Mate of both of our’s , also ex Pro, managed the Billabong Int. team, Parko, AI, etc, and I once dropped some hot, up and coming SA juniors to him, whom he had never heard of, and he said to me that if he hadn’t heard or seen of a kid really ripping by the time they were 15 y/o it was highly unlikely he would sponsor them and therefore them making it as a top tier Pro.
It’s such a tough gig, make sure you think long and hard about it, have throwaway funds and time in case and instead of going into debt!