Joe Sparrow : Surf’s Up; or Surf’s Everywhere, all the time

I often think about how we consume stuff in an era where everything is available all of the time.

(I’ll save the “in my day” stories about straining to deduce a new LP’s contents from the sleeve art on the bus home for another tedious post.)

But the idea that we’re all increasingly skimming the surface of lots of media/art/thoughts is quite widely accepted now, and I’ve written about Breadth Vs Depth before.

Maybe what bugs me about accessing everything, always is that it’s clearly what we instinctively want — a little sample of everything in preference to deep knowledge of a little.

It’s mirrored elsewhere in non-tech, non-#disrupted places: in Chinese All-U-Can-Eat buffets, where the temptation of a two course meal is outweighed by a taste of everything; or in The Week, a magazine compiling newspaper snippets — a kind of low-pass news filter which is kinda-useful but also removes extremes, readability and personality.

And just because, as animals, we’re drawn towards more, and more frequently, it doesn’t mean it’s the better life experience.

At the end of the summer, I found myself sitting on a beach in Portugal with my good friend Alex, who — along with another friend Sab — forms the brilliant Portuguese band Youthless.

(Alex is also known as Tiappa, depending on how you are related to him. This is also another story for another time.)

Anyway: Alex/Tiappa loves surfing, and the beach was in Ericiera, one of Europe’s surf capitals.

In the still-hot September sun, and as Gem slept pointedly in between us, we chatted about life, philosophy, and the various merits of the amazing local prego no pao sandwiches, all interspersed with the kind of childish penis jokes you only risk in the company of trusted friends.

As we talked, Alex gazed at the sea, watching a couple of surfers trying to ride a lacklustre wave. He couldn’t fully pull his attention away: the lure of the sea is bone-deep* and he’s a happy addict.

Over a couple of hours, one surfer rode a difficult, lazy wave only a few times, and Alex critiqued him with a mixture of appreciation, jealousy, and what I guess is the universal surfer reflexive of: “I could do that a bit better.”

Later, we sat in a surfer joint, and the TV behind a kitsch wave-shaped bar showed an endless highlight reel of surfers catching giant waves; hardy souls bulletting down sheer walls of unimaginable heft, and eventually wiping out in a mess of boiling white foam.

We all stared, hooked. Surfer after surfer, wave after wave. Each clip was a few seconds long. Just the exciting bit, money shot after money shot: surf-whoosh-splash.

Alex watched both intently. One was long and intermittently-rewarding**. The other was all-killer-no-filler, and offered rigidly repeated hits.

Which one offered the better life experience, in the long-term?

Which one made him long harder*** for the sea?



*yes, this is the calibre of penis joke we were making

**this too