It was a photo in an old Aussie surf mag, maybe Tracks, maybe the now defunct Line-Up, and it was of Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew riding a knee-high surge of foam. He was tweaking his nose; he looked almost bored. It was so far from the “money shots” you typically find in the surf mags, yet it strangely compelled me. It was style, economy of movement, effortlessness. He wasn’t trying. His knees were only slightly bent. His arms were at his sides. If his boardshorts had pockets his hands would likely have been in them.
Only much later in my surfing odyssey did I come to understand what that photo was telling me: Style comes in the in-between moments. It’s vulnerability. It’s inner essence shining through. And also this: the best surfers’ mastery is evident in the stroll down the beach, the paddle out, the way they ride a knee-high surge of foam, the way they step off onto the sand at the end of a long ride.
I’m reminded of Joel Tudor in Surf Movie, which might also be titled Style 101. Watch his flow and grace. Watch how less is more when it comes to cross-stepping and direction-changing.
*Special thanks to Michael Halsband and Joel Tudor.