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Surfer
Surfer

Surf culture includes the people, language, fashion and life surrounding the sport of modern surfing.

The culture began early in the 20th century, spread quickly during the 1950s and 1960s, and continues to evolve.

Touching fashion, music, literature, films, jargon, and more, its basis is the love of surfing, the hunt for great waves, the desire for the ultimate ride, and life in and around the ocean. Localism or territorialism is often a large part of surf culture in which individuals or groups of surfers designate certain key surfing spots as their own. Surfers, who come from many walks of life, are generally bound by an intense love of the sport.

The fickle nature of weather and the ocean, plus the great desire for the best possible types of waves for surfing, make surfers slaves to rapidly changing conditions.

Surfer Magazine
, founded in the 1960s when surfing had gained popularity with teenagers, used to say that if they were hard at work and someone yelled "Surf's up!" the office would suddenly be empty. Also, since surfing has a restricted geographical necessity (i.e. the coast), the culture of beach life often influenced surfers and vice versa.

Aspects of 1960s surf culture in Southern California, where it was first popularized, include the woodie, bikinis and other beach wear, such as boardshorts or baggies, and surf music. Surfers developed the skateboard to be able to "surf" on land; and the number of boardsports and spin-offs has grown ever since.

Surfers have often been associated with being slackers or beach bums (with women being known as beach bunnies). Though surfers come from all walks of life, the basis of the stereotype comes from that great enthusiasm that surfers can have for their sport. Along with the rarity of truly perfect surf conditions (plus the bliss that is associated with them) and the inevitable hunt for great waves, surfers often become dedicated to their sport in a way that precludes a more traditional life. Surfing instead, becomes their lifestyle.

This has left a long history of surfers veering off the beaten path, and foregoing the traditional goals of first world culture in the hunt for a continual stoke, in harmony with life, their surfing, and the ocean. This is part of the definition of a "Soul Surfer" whose goals are certainly not that of every person who indulges in the sport, but a vibrant and long-standing sub-group.

Competitive surf culture (centered around surf contests and endorsement deals) is often seen in opposition to this, since it embraces more traditional capitalistic ideals. Since its inception there has always been debate about whether or not surfing for money and prizes is truly compatible with the surfing lifestyle. Though this debate has lessened in recent decades, since many of today's pro-surfers, seem to be able to straddle both worlds: the competitive surfer and "free surfer".

A non-competitive adventure activity involving riding the biggest waves possible (known as "rhino hunting") is also popular with some surfers. A practice popularized in the 1990s has seen big wave surfing revolutionized, as surfers use personal watercraft to tow them out to a position where they can catch previously unrideable waves (tow-in surfing). These waves were previously unrideable due to the speed at which they travel. Some waves reach speeds of over 60 km/h; personal watercraft enable surfers to reach the speed of the wave thereby making them rideable. Personal watercraft also allow surfers to survive wipeouts. In many instances surfers would not survive the battering of the "sets" (groups of waves together). This spectacular activity is extremely popular with television crews, but because such waves rarely occur in heavily populated regions, and usually only a very long way out to sea on outer reefs, few spectators see such events directly.

Surfing (particularly in Southern California) has its own slang, which has coincided with Valspeak. Words like "tubular", "radical", and "gnarly" are associated with both. One of the main terms used by surfers around the world would be the word, "Stoked". This refers to a feeling of happiness and is used pretty much in every acceptance speech in any surfing contest.

Global warming, environmental damage, and increasing riparian development may continue to increase pressure on the sport. Oil spills and toxic algae growth can threaten surfing regions. And, many wealthy homeowners have tried to prevent free access to beaches in violation of English and American common law traditions, in which "the strand" is not private property.

Some of these stresses may be overcome by building of artificial reefs for surfing. Several have been built in recent years (one is at Cables in Western Australia), and there is widespread enthusiasm in the global surfing community for additional projects. However, environmental opposition and rigorous coastal permitting regulations is dampening prospects for building such reefs in some countries, such as the United States. A major big wave cultural group in northern Australia is called "clarkey", and are known for their aggression and passion.

Australian surfer Nat Young tried to register surfing as a religion, but to no avail. Many surfers combine their love of the sport with their own religious or spiritual beliefs. In Huntington Beach, California for example, a local Christian, non-denominational church occasionally meets on the beach for Sunday early-morning services. After the closing prayer, the minister and his congregation paddle out for a morning session. In addition, many surfing communities organize and take part in memorial services for fallen surfers, sometimes on the anniversary of passing such as the Eddie Aikau memorial service held annually at Waimea Bay, Hawaii. Participants in the memorial service paddle out to a suitable location with flower leis around their necks or with loose flowers (sometimes held between their teeth)., The participants then get into a circular formation, hold hands, and silently pray. Sometimes they will raise their clasped hands skyward before tossing their flowers or leis into the center of the ring. Afterward, they paddle back toward the beach to begin their surf session. Often these services take place at sunrise or sunset. In locations with a pier, such as Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, the service can take place near the end of the pier so that any non-surfers, such as elderly relatives, can watch and participate. Often the participants on the pier will throw down bouquets of flowers into the center of the ring.

Each year, June 20 is known as International Surfing Day - a global day of celebration of the sport of surfing and surf culture.

Surf culture is reflected in surf music, with sub-genres such as surf rock and surf pop. This includes works from such artists as Jan and Dean, The Beach Boys, The Surfaris ("Wipe Out!"), Dick Dale, The Shadows, and The Ventures. The music inspired dance crazes such as The Stomp, The Frug, and The Watusi. While the category surf music helped popularize surfing, most surfers at the time, such as Miki Dora, preferred R&B and blues. A newer wave of surf music has started in the acoustic riffs of artists such as Jack Johnson and Donavon Frankenreiter, who are both former professional surfers. The rise of surfers creating their own music and new style of surf rock has started.

Surfwear is a popular style of casual clothing, inspired by surf culture. Many surf-related brand names originated as cottage industry, supplying local surfers with boardshorts, Ugg boots, wetsuits, surfboards or leashes. Today, its popularity extends so far beyond the surfing community, that some of its most high profile brands are listed on the Stock Exchange. These companies gain exposure through sponsoring professional surfers and the contests in which they compete.

Image from Deviantart, info from wikipedia.


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