the drive to find one’s identity is a powerful thing. Of extreme importance in youth is the question, “Who am I?” This question is fraught with contradiction and experimentation, as it’s likely to temporarily (one would hope) put a fourteen-year-old in a juggalo or brony garb, as it is to provide any sort of meaningful answer. Surfers, as a subculture, love to self-label. To say, “I’m this or I’m that,” is distilling a person’s sum total into a single word.  But words are tricky things; they don’t always say what we want.  So you may want to think twice before letting one of the following sentences past your lips.
1. “I’m a longboarder/shortboarder.”
Accepting a cruel economic reality wherein you can only afford a one-board-quiver and limiting yourself to a single surf craft is a pointless and close-minded endeavor.  A too small craft just leads to heartbreak in all too common, all too small conditions.  There’s nothing noble in struggling to maintain trim in gutless surf, or bogging every turn because it’s waist high and you’re riding an eighteen-inch wide board.
Classic Los Angeles weekend crowd. Photo: Shetler
Classic Malibu crowd. Photo: Shetler
As for logs, it’s the same, yet different.  There’s a time and place for big-ass boards. For example, if you’re looking to pose on the nose at Old Man’s on the weekend or join the anarchic clusterfuck that is First Point Malibu, longboards are the way to go.  But paddling out into overhead barrels on a design lifted from an era when black people were only allowed to use certain drinking fountains is simply not smart.
2. “I’m a waterman.”
Like having a big dick, if it’s true, there’s really no need to talk about it. There was a time when the term waterman meant something, when it was bestowed as a term of respect for those few who’d truly mastered every condition, craft, and past time our beloved ocean has to offer.  A waterman is what others call you, not a label you should ever, ever, ever apply to yourself.
3. “I’m a bodysurfer.”
Don’t get me wrong, bodysurfing is a blast in overhead closeouts or whomping shore-break-board-killers.  But, unless your name is Mark Cunningham, only bodysurfing is a recipe for not making sections and spending most of your time in the water bobbing around like a potato.
Cunningham, however, is the real deal.
Cunningham, however, is the real deal. Photo: Lester
You can always cheat a bit and use a hand plane, or move somewhere with an onshore shelf that makes riding any other craft near impossible, but by lacking those options you’re making an odd decision.  Because, unless you’re really drunk or really high, the truth is that kicking into mushy slop is no fun at all.
4. “I’m a stand up paddleboarder.”
Are you a rare breed of masochists who love nothing more than burning your arms to dust while paddling insanely long distances in the open ocean?  Do your shoulders measure three feet across and look to be hewed from granite? Do you race other lunatics across the Molokai Channel?  If so, shine on you crazy diamond.  I don’t get y’all crazy fuckers, but I got respect.
Laird Hamilton is the real deal. Photo: TheUltimateWaterman
If you can ride it, Laird will shred it. Photo: TheUltimateWaterman
But if you’re the average SUP dude, sitting far outside on a twelve hundred dollar plank, stroking into every wave ten minutes before it has started to cap, maybe you should keep your predilections to yourself.  Like being the owner of a niche sexual fetish, it’s something for which you should feel vaguely ashamed and keep locked in the privacy of your own mind.  And if you really feel need to talk to other people about it, head online where you can find a thriving community of like-minded degenerates and wax rhapsodic without burdening the rest of us with your disgusting habits.
5. “I’m a soul surfer.”
Translation: “I entered some NSSA contests in my youth and got smoked in each and every heat. Now I ride terrible single fin pintails at El Porto and post snide comments about pro surfing on internet message boards.”
A smart surfer is a good surfer.
“Dude, there’s no wax on my board. Does anyone have wax?” Photo: Haslam