Aside from drinking eggnog, the very real possibility of the consumption of raw cookie dough, and the promise of sloppy kisses from elderly relatives at family functions, winter break is a miserable time for most surfers. Sure, it is great to take a much-needed hiatus from schlepping around campus, weighed down with heavy text books and heavier hearts.
Yet this time off is sort of like kissing your sister for most surfers. It’s a win, but just barely.
As surfers, we appear to be drawn toward everything winter is not in North Florida. For us, visions of sugar plums no longer dance in our heads. Rather scenes of immaculate set waves rattle in our wintery brains. While contorting into damp wetsuits, we dream of days filled with warm waters, cool beers and close friends. More times than not, these places of perfection are not the same as which we call home. Surfing and travel have become almost inseparable from one another, and, in turn, travel and winter have become closely related.
Merriam-Webster has deemed the word “culture” to be the word of the year for 2014. Merriam-Webster defines culture as being comprised of the normative beliefs, customs, social practices, and material traits of a particular group. It also defines the word as “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.” According to Merriam-Webster, “culture” was the most frequently searched phrase of the year. This word could be used to describe the human race as a whole, or smaller sects of society. Sects such as surfers.
This relevance of culture leaves one to question: how should the culture of surfing be defined?
Perhaps the most relevant aspect of surf culture during the winter months is that of travel, of escaping frigid waters and the monotony of life at home for something much greater than that. As students and professionals alike flock to Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, and Hawaiian waters, as well as countless others, those left to drown in the cold waters and the sea of snow birds found in the water months of North Florida become disenchanted with this idea of travel in surf culture.
Merriam-Webster identified the second most popular word of the year as being “nostalgia.” Merriam-Webster defines nostalgia as being “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.”
The combination of these two defining words of 2014 can be combined to describe what is lacking during the winter months for most surfers in Florida — the nostalgia culture. Not to say that the escapism of winter time travel isn’t something that we all aspire to, but is spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a surf trip really what makes you “core?” Is this all really necessary? Between financial restraints and professional obligations, is this all even feasible?
The use of this idea of nostalgia can be implemented to create a new culture of surfing. This “new” surf culture may consist of a few key factors, ones that are seemingly lacking from the popular era of the sport: simplicity, satisfaction and ultimately, surfing.
It is far too easy to perceive the wealthy members of society spending their winter break surfing in the exotic waters of far away lands as being true, core athletes. Too easily are these privileged young surfers seen as being what defines surf culture: sparing no cost on top name-brand boards, travel bags, hotel rooms, and plane tickets to far away places. We spend the money because we deserve it. We take the time off work because life is too stressful here in Florida. We break our budgets for the sake of surfing.
Yet one can’t help but remember the days of two-foot wind-slop that presented itself as pipe-line conditions in younger days. One can’t forget the feeling of gratuity when slipping into your older brother or sister’s hand-me-down wetsuit because one was too consumed by the excitement over the idea that surfing would still be possible during the winter months. This excitement was even able to outweigh the fears of frostbite as frigid waters leaked into your well-fitting wetsuit … almost.
As troublesome as they may be, nothing can restore one’s faith in the Floridian lifestyle like a snow bird can. It isn’t until one hears a New Yorker gushing about their love for our lack of snow and wealth of sunshine that one can truly appreciate what our state has to offer. Sure, we’d all probably rather be off breathing in the sweet, sticky air of a foreign country in a city whose name we’re more than likely going to mispronounce, but none of us Floridians are forced to shovel show from their driveway in order to go to work in the morning, or heaven forbid, own a pair of long underwear.
Ultimately, the culture of nostalgia in surfing reminds us that we’re lucky.
We’re healthy individuals that possess the tenacity and skill necessary to glide on a piece of foam over the surface of a living, breathing entity like the ocean. At the core of it all, that feat is amazing by its own merit. Whether there’s stickers on this board and a name brand plastered on your suit, or you’re riding a plain board from your local shaper and baggies with no label, we’re all doing something pretty incredible.