for FHM MAGAZINE by David Griffiths
Blag your way to summer surfing cred without the tricky bits (such as learning to surf.) Surfing is cool. Fact. It is also bloody difficult. Blame the Beach Boys. Before they came along with their seemingly endless close harmonies on the subject most people had never heard of surfing, let alone tried it. The Beach Boys made it sound like the most natural thing to do in the world. Get in your car, head down to the beach and hit the waves. Sadly however, it’s not quite that simple. What they forgot to mention was that avoiding looking like a complete twat takes years of practice. Therein lies the problem with surfing as far as I’m concerned.
Learning to surf is all very well if you live in Hawaii or spend your weekends hanging out at Bondai Beach. Who wouldn’t mind spending hour after hour honing their skills in a Pacific paradise, periodically stopping to smile at the inevitable hordes of surfer groupies. Unfortunately the reality here in sun forsaken Blighty is somewhat different. You’ll find the idea rapidly loses its appeal when you’re faced with freezing your nuts off on the Gower peninsula in February. If like me you’re not convinced of the merits of the 'no pain, no gain' school of thought, you’re going to need to switch to Plan B.
A far more sensible (and potentially rewarding) idea would be to spend your time perfecting the 'look' and acting the part. Surfer chic is in. More importantly, women think surfers look good, so if you’re hoping to emulate surfers legendary pulling power you’re gonna need to be convincing. After thorough research (rewatching Point Break and Blue Juice) I headed to down to PJ’s Surfshop in Llangennith, South Wales to consult the experts, former Welsh and British champion Pete Jones and his son James. Clothing/ Hair: Brands are very important.
The more cynical among you might think that surfers, skateboarders, snowboarders (in fact any alternative sport you can think of that begins with ‘S’) et al look like they’ve just nicked Swampy’s cast-offs, but they are of course just as style conscious as the rest of us. Be warned. You can’t just wear anything if you’re going to be taken seriously. M/f
JJ: There is a lot of crossover between skateboarding and surfing. A lot of people wear skate shoes like DC’s and Globe. It’s more of a branding thing than an actual style of clothing. Quiksilver; Billabong; Rip-Curl are the big three. It’s difficult to pin-it down but there’s a lot of long-sleeved T- shirts, sweats, combats. Basically, baggy and comfy. No bright colours. People do wear Hawaiian shirts in the summer though.” Top tip: Although somewhat disappointingly sun-bleached blonde shoulder length hair is not obligatory, it is a hot favourite with the ladies. It is therefore strongly recommended.
Apparently quite a lot of the top boys though shave their heads as they find it gets in their way. Language: Appearing to know what you’re talking about is going to be essential if you’re going to pull this off. Meeting someone who actually surfs and not knowing what they're talking about is liable to prove rather humiliating. You need to know your ‘peeling’ from your ‘tubing’.
Peeling: When a wave breaks.
Tubing: The part of the wave a surfer rides.
Reef break: A large wave created when a wave breaks over shallow rock and peels into deeper water.
Point break: A reef break that peels down a point. (As in geographical point- headland.) You can only go in one direction down the wave towards the land.
Cutback (or cutty): Set move that involves moving back into the ‘critical’ part of the wave.
Floater: Riding across the very top of the wave.
Competition move. Dropping-in: Very bad surf etiquette. When one surfer attempts to ride a wave someone else is already trying to ride. Potentially dangerous.
Shutdown: When a wave has finished peeling and rolls over. Usually happens when a wave hits the beach.
Top Tip: Under no circumstances be tempted to use the term ‘Blue Juice’ as slang for sea. I am reliably informed that you will be immediately spotted for the w##ker you undoubtedly are. M/f
Accessories: A classic VW Camper Van will always be admired in surf circles, as long as it’s a good example. But it’s no longer strictly necessary.
Surfing has moved on and you need to be seen in the right gear. Boards: PJ: “As far as boards go, Stewart Longboards are a top brand. Hobie have been going for a long time, they’re another good one. There are different types of boards for different types of surfing. A 9 foot longboard will handle differently to a short board (7ft 7 ins), as they are used for different things.” Top Tip: Once used with some success in the Newport area according to urban myth. Screw a surf board to the top of your van and just leave it there. Wetsuits: Not strictly necessary if your planning to be land-locked, but you may want to have one in your wardrobe if someone tries to call your bluff. Should persuade all but the biggest doubters of your sincerity. Names to look out for are Gul, Alder and Second Skin. Assorted Others: A tidewatch could provide an authentic touch and you should have some board wax lying around your house, just in case anyone drops by. Ethos/ Lifestyle: Mellow. Surfing is a way of life. Practitioners tend to be healthy, fit, tanned types as they spend a lot of time outdoors and take an interest in the environment (particularly the sea). Surfer’s Against Sewage (SAS) are a well known action group who campaign for better water quality. PJ: “ The hard core guys are into clean living. A lot of surfers are careful about what they eat, but they do like to party as well, they enjoy life. Surfing is such an energetic sport it wears you out. I think the spirituality side is important as well. The sea calms you and helps get rid of your tension. Most surfers are quite in tune with nature.” Not the drug and booze frenzy that Point Break had led me to expect. Needless to say, if you’re an uptight person, you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. It’s worth noting that a lot of people connected with the sport take jobs where they can finish early (eg postman) and spend the rest of the day surfing.
Top Tip: Perfect a distant ‘I’m somewhere else’ look and make your eyes light up when you talk about surfing. All the experts seem to do it. Music: No set tastes here. That said, breaking out into sporadic acapella versions of Surfin’ Safari or the Fatboys version of Wipeout after a few beers with your mates is probably best avoided, if you’re looking to maintain credibility. JJ: “The stereotypical surf music would be punky stuff like The Offspring, Pearl Jam or Green Day. But it could be anything. Rap’s popular. People listen to all sorts of stuff just like anyone else really.” Interesting music related fact: Pete reckons that the Beach Boys couldn’t actually surf. In fact only one of them had ever tried it. So you’ll be in good company. Strict adherence to the above guidelines should ensure you look and sound the Real McCoy. Mind you, if you’ve gone as far as all this, you could always wait till summer and try the real thing for yourself. For all your surfing gear, information and advice about getting started contact: PJ’s Surfshop in Llangennith, North Gower on : (01792) 386669 or visit their website on www.pjsurfshop.co.uk.