The Great Surfing Disconnect – The Characteristics of a Surfer

Duuuuuuuuuude! Your Nothing Like Me!

I was watching the Bells contest the other day and I watched the surfers warming up and preparing for their heats.  After the contest ended, I begin to think about what these serious pros did in their day-to-day life. The huge amount of time they spend training and eating correctly and then I began to ponder how their actions impact the average surfer on the street. During this time, I also thought of something I read on another blog. In this blog, the author would travel around during the day and look at people and would decide if they were surfers or not. I think this is an interesting concept. Only because individuals (both surfing and non-surfing) have an idea in their head of what a surfer looks and acts like.

What Are the Characteristics of a Surfer?

I remember this day very well. My friend and I pulled up to a surf spot and the waves were decently sized. My friend is not ripped and his hair has thinned over the years. He does terrible air attempts. I will say this though, at good old solid surfing, my friend is far above the average recreational surfer. But does he look like a surfer?

When we pulled into the lot, another car was unloading as well. These guys were young. They had blonde hair and a few had some tattoos. They all had new surfboards and they were loud and boisterous! They had skinny girlfriends who were proudly soaking up the fact that they were with these cool guys. So my friend and I quietly waxed up our boards while they were loudly carrying on.

We paddled out first. The break looked far out but after a few duck dives we were out. We even commented on how fast we made it out. So we caught a few waves. Then I noticed something odd. The guys were in the mid-break stroking and paddling like mad as a wave broke in front of them. Some got rolled. They began to drift down the beach. Only one would make it out. The wave size? About 4 feet.

So even though the cover of the book said “Surfer”, the look could not get them through the break.

Meanwhile my buddy who was barely noticed because he did not have the stereotypical surfer look was schooling the group.  I am sure they did not say a word once they all returned to the beach after their 30 minute pounding. When we left, we did pass them as they resigned themselves to a day of frisbee tossing, and they were a lot more subdued compared to how they acted in the parking lot.

Faces of Pro Surfing

Drew Courtney

Jadson Andre

Maxime Huscenot


Wiggolly Dantas

Greg Emslie    


The Real Face of Surfing!

As you can see, these professional surfers run the gamut of looks. There are a few hippie types in the mix and a few with blonde hair that could look the part. The reality mirrors something that the world has not caught onto just yet. Surfing is an international sport and the faces no longer mirror the age-old stereotypes. Saying that any of these surfers look like Jeff Spicoli or someone from Point Break would be as accurate as saying that all the citizens of Scotland have red hair.

So Who is a Surfer?

The reality is this:

The average surfer is just a normal person. They work. They are of any age. I see many older guys who love to surf and are in their 50’s and 60’s. I surf with many female surfers who are in their 50’s and 60’s. They pay their bills. They are responsible. They do not rob banks while wearing masks of ex-presidents. They are Australian, Costa Rican, Indonesian, Japanese, Brazilian, English, American, and Canadian. There are people who surf in rivers. They surf in just about every ocean and Lake Erie and Michigan too!

I’m Going to Shred These Gnarly Barrels Brah!

 The gig is up! Anyone who speaks like this is probably the guy who will barely make it out on the four-foot day. Instead of paying attention to them, you should be watching the little Japanese kid or the older guy with the thinning hair and the mustache who is confidently sitting out beyond the pack.

These people get it.  They understand that surfing is not about playing a part in a play.  They understand that it is not an excuse to use a perception of society to justify their poor life choices such as using drugs and being unproductive.

They love to surf.

Stumble It!


About 1stpeaksteve

Welcome to The Side Wedge! The Side Wedge is a product of the journey through life of Steve Zima. Former professional surfer, a writer, surf coach, and hospitality manager. This is a collection of travel tips, motivation, and stories from my past. Finally, I offer surf coaching through The Side Wedge. Please feel free to contact me with questions if you want to improve your performance today! Thanks for reading!
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5 Responses to The Great Surfing Disconnect – The Characteristics of a Surfer

  1. mulletkiller says:

    You know someone with thinning hair? What a kook

  2. jjalbertt says:

    I enjoyed this, my co-workers and I always joke around about the stereotypical “surfers voice”.

    • 1stpeaksteve says:

      Sadly, I know what you mean. I know this one person and they play the role to the extreme. The slow, spaced-out pace and the “brahs” and other expressions. I am just cringing as I am thinking about this!

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