Making Waves in 2013: What's Next in Surfing
Now that the New Year’s booze and drugs are slowly draining out of the system of the collective surfing world, it’s time to start thinking about the year ahead. Will Kirra make a comeback? Will Australians stop hating Brazilians? Will we stop trying to ride surfboards designed for pros? Those are the easy questions; The answer is no. However, there are a few more that I’d like to lodge in hopes of starting a bit of lively discussion. Without further ado, here are nine predictions for the world of surfing in 2013:
Brazilian Gabriel Medina (credit: ASP/kirstin)
1. The Brazilian charge will falter.
I have trumpeted the consolidation of Brazil as a superpower of world surfing for the last few years, but I think that their rise is about to hit a bump in the road. It has nothing to do with the talent levels, either. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Ruchir Sharma claims that the decade of economic growth experienced by Russia, India, China and Brazil is already showing signs of stagnation and cannot continue. One of pro surfing’s inconvenient truths is that the viability of a career is heavily contingent on being from a rich country that will provide sponsorship money to fund your globetrotting. If Brazil cannot continue to grow, all but the wealthiest up-and-comers will feel the belt tightening.
2. We will lose a big wave surfer.
2012 was a year without any well-known fatalities in big wave surfing. It was also perhaps the safest year on record with multiple big wave surfers upping their conditioning and safety protocols to a level that has heretofore been unheard of in the surfing world. It’s telling, then, that Greg Long came within a hair’s breadth of kicking the can while on perhaps the most safety-conscious big wave expedition in history (it had its own safety crews waiting on the boats). The ugly truth of the matter is that, the bigger they go, the closer they come to death at the hands of circumstances that no training or backup teams can overcome. But then, that’s part of the point, isn’t it?
Steph Gilmore in surfer cool fashion for Vogue. (credit: Boo George/Vogue)
3. Surfing will lose a bit of its “cool.”
In case you hadn’t noticed, surfing was pretty hot for a minute. Now that the fashion industry has turned to different “heritage” looks and paddle boarding has lost its novelty in the media, surfing does not have the cultural cachet it did even a year ago. This can only be a good thing, unless you actually like going to those lame surf boutiques cum coffee shops and griping about how everyone else is a poser. These things are cyclical, so we’ve probably got at least two to three years of flying below the radar before Hollywood releases a Keala Kennelly biopic that takes a sweet subject, gets it all wrong, and blows the top off the culture again. Here’s hoping Kennelly plays herself.
4. The alternative board trend will slow down.
The last half-decade of growing board diversity in the lineups has, unfortunately, run its course. Since learning how hard it was to ride finless, get vertical on a quad, and bottom turn a Neck Beard, the early adopters who jumped on the alterna-board bandwagon are shelving their more innovative models for shapes closer to the ol’ reliable thruster. This is partly due to the fact that the market has responded to consumer desire, which is good news in that we are now seeing more width and volume in standard short-boards that we would have ever thought possible in the glass slipper days of the late nineties. The bad news is that backyard innovations seems to have stagnated, though I would welcome any reports to the contrary.
5. A new “It” wave will be publicized.
A mysto wave has not made the jump into the mainstream surf consciousness since Cory Lopez’s antics at Skeleton Bay in 2008 (seen above). It’s becoming less likely that there are any undiscovered surfing waves left, but they exist. With the publishing crisis still raging and plenty of attention-hungry media types floating around cyberspace looking for their big break, every “secret” spot is a potential discovery/exploitation scoop. My money is going on some place cold. Either perfect and cold, or scary and cold.
6. Female pro surfing will remain exactly where it has always been.
It wont’ grow, it won’t shrink, it will continue to limp along as the underappreciated step-child of surfing. I’ve never met an entire group of people who hate their sisters and daughters more.
L to R: John John Florence, Gabriel Medina and Kolohe Andino (credit: ASP)
7. The next world champion will not be from Coolangatta or Florida.
This is the year when the young ones will come into their own. Jordy Smith, Julian Wilson, Owen Wright, and below them, The Angel Gabriel and John Florence. These guys must be sick of losing to the upperclassmen. This is the year their drive and abilities reach a critical mass.
8. Board shorts will become more expensive while offering less perceivable innovation.
Pretty self-explanatory. They will, however, continue to grow shorter but probably not shorter than two to four inches above the knee.
A Dane Reynolds doodle. (credit: summerteeth.com)
9. Dane Reynolds will do something besides scribble with crayons and release the odd web clip.
He has to, right? Can Quiksilver really justify his sponsorship based on scattered magazine photos, a handful of three-minute clips, and one or two brilliant contest performances? I’m willing to accept that he’s the best surfer on a board right now, but from a business angle, I still don’t think he can glide by on such a ridiculously limited output.
This story first appeared on The Inertia.