Disenchanted -- 12/23/98

Unknown sponger gets some shack time

Went on another midweek jaunt to catch the tail end of a fast-moving swell. Tuesday saw some excellent 6-10' (Haw'n) Pipe, and some unfortunate injuries to boot. Wednesday, well that was a different story.

When I got to the beach, I couldn't believe my eyes--it was tiny! The big surf had all but vanished, and I was left to muck around in 1-3' (Haw'n) stuff. The winds were brisk sideshores and the crowd was spread all over the Beach Park area.

Backdoor had a few for the patient, with some nasty crouching barrels over shallow reef. Very aggressive lineup though, with lots of groms jockeying for waves. Pass.

Despite the conditions, I caught a few fun ones. Most were pull-in closeouts with one second of beauty followed by five seconds of tumble. Scored one good steep face at Insanities-trimmed high and made the shoulder, swooping a small cutback. Got into this nice little pocket at OTW, but stalled just a tad too much, and got munched by the lip.

I hooked up with an old bodyboarding buddy I'll call Vijay. I've known this guy since we started competing back in the late 80's. A pro sponger, a sales rep for various companies and a freelance writer, Vijay knows the industry better than anyone. And what he said was pretty disheartening.

Vijay expressed some deep frustration in the current state of bodyboarding. Although it is experiencing a huge wave of popularity, the industry seems to be falling apart at the seams. The trade mags are in disarray, the tours just aren't panning out, and the companies themselves are hard-pressed to stay in the black.

I could only nod in agreement. Don't know why times are so tough, but they are. Solutions? Revamp and repackage the whole sport, starting with the mags and videos. Won't happen overnight, and it'll take a group consensus, but something has to be done.

Another thing that we talked about was the stress of being a pro bodyboarder. Vijay feels that he HAS to perform well since he's essentially being paid to surf. That must be such huge pressure. He even mentioned having to change his style just "for the camera," a fact that he despises. The sport is just not as fun for him anymore.

A lot of people may think that he's just a spoiled kid who gets to surf for free. But there's much more to it. He has responsibilities to keep, bills to pay, mouths to feed. And success is directly related to performance and exposure. The reality of being a pro bodyboarder (or surfer) is much different than its perception.

Vijay left in frustration, catching a sweet one to the beach. I could only hope that things would turn around for him (and for the industry in general).

As I caught my last wave, I savored every nuance: the flow, the cool water, the splashy sounds, the bare reef, the gritty sand. The wave was a two-foot closeout, but it was still fun. I'm glad I can still enjoy these things.

Aloha from Paradise,