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By Salomon. Trismosin

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5 The cultural history of surfing (values, style and images associated with surfing) – recent phase Period Recent phase 1970s to the present • Recent surfing culture history is perhaps best understood in terms of a series of narrative tensions or unfolding (converging and diverging) tendencies including: ᭺ Counter-cultural, soul surfing – individualistic, ranging through various preoccupations with peak experiences or highs (whether through spirituality or psycho-active substances) and varying accommodations with, and distancing from, wider advanced capitalist/technological society ᭺ Concerns with ‘authenticity’ and ‘purity’ of surfing ᭺ The sportization of surfing through competition (earliest international contest at Makaha, Oahu in 1954) ᭺ Long recognized as a way to make surfing more ‘respectable’, the process set back by the 1970s soul surfing tendency ᭺ Codification of manoeuvres for scoring ᭺ Competitions providing an arena for cutting edge performance and national rivalries (primarily between the USA and Australia) ᭺ The rise of the World Surf Tour (IPS/ASP) and, with commercial support, the beginnings of a professional surfing lifestyle (for a select few) • Business and the commercialization of surfing ᭺ Through a series of ‘booms’, increasing participation levels enable the expansion of surfing business from small numbers of craft factories and small outlets to larger numbers of small outlets and a few becoming multinational corporations ᭺ Surfing culture’s preoccupation with authenticity ensures that these major companies grow out of existing ‘insider’ surfers’ companies, rather than being appropriated from outside surfing culture ᭺ In terms of market turnover, the boutiquing of surf fashion becomes far more important than sales of equipment – a trend enormously amplified by surfing business expansions into the exploding cognate pursuits of skateboarding, windsurfing and snowboarding ᭺ On a wider societal level, the image and dream of surfing is appropriated in the advertising of numerous non-surfing products • The enormous increase in the numbers participating in surfing leads to problems of crowding in many urban surfing areas.

It is salutary to note that cartoon fantasies of yesteryear, dreaming up explosive manoeuvres and surfers on monster waves, are not entirely dissimilar to the realities of some surfing manoeuvres and giant wave surfing today. There now follows a brief consideration of the visuality, or the ways in which the vision of surfing photography is constructed. Given the all-important process of selection (and later manipulation) of surfing shots, it is clear that the photographer is simultaneously creative artist and member of the audience.

Obviously the litany of firsts and breakthroughs in the narrative history of surfing are associated with particular individuals, who in turn become the heroes and ‘legends’ of surf culture. In order to recount any narrative it is necessary to reduce and simplify an otherwise, unimaginably vast reality. A further attempt to distil recurring facets of the narrative can be made by identifying values of surfing culture in relation to phases of the chronology. g. Tom Blake experimented with hollow boards, and crossover design from paddleboards • Plywood longboards 1930s • Experiments with pintails and ‘v’ bottoms, to improve turning • The ‘fin solution’ (arguably Blake) Late 1940s • Lighter balsawood replaced redwood – 9–11ft long Late 1950s • Shortage of balsawood, the search for alternatives • Bob Simmons (following wartime work on aircraft design) revolutionizes board technology with the use of fibreglass • 1952 – the first surf shop – Velzy, Hermosa Beach, California Narrative history and globalization 29 continued Late 1950s (cont) • Gordon Clarke – applied foam compounds to create the classic ‘Malibu’ board which dominated for a decade Late 1960s • The shortboard revolution’ – Bob McTavish’s designs • Theoretical and technical insights from George Greenough’s kneeboards (crossover) • Adaptation of shortboards to steep Hawaiian waves, partly through the improvements of narrow-based, swept-back fins 1968/69 • Increasingly shorter boards → 6ft, then up to 61⁄2–7ft • Innovations and influences crossing between California and Australia 1970s • Advent of the twin fin for smaller to medium-sized waves 1971 • Introduction of the leash (or cord) preventing loss of board after wipe-out also ‘democratizing’ effect of the invention of the boogie board 1981 • Simon Anderson’s three-fin thrusters lay the basis for what has become the basic, high performance surfboard up to the present – primarily 6–61⁄2ft long • Accompanied by the last two decades of fine tuning refinements for particular localities and types of waves Early 1990s • At the extreme end of surfing, the advent of ‘tow-in’ surfing (from jetskis) to ride giant, outer reef waves Note: Today there is a plurality of boards, as well as the basic thrusters, including the return of the ‘mini-mal’ (71⁄2–81⁄2ft long) and the longer Malibu or ‘plank’, for more relaxed surfing, especially for older surfers.

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