I think what most fascinates me about the professional surfing world is not the glamorous side of it – great tans, fancy sponsors, chiseled physiques, screaming fans – but the lifestyle they have as professional athletes in a minor sport. If you take away some of the top earners, the majority of these surfers, and particularly those in the longboard category, don’t make all that much money. They don’t have entourages, they don’t have PR consultants, they don’t have ESPN face time. On the other hand, they have families, camaraderie, a relationship with nature, and a job that fits squarely in the category of “other” on any standardized form … not all that bad.
I have always loved the idea and practice of alternative lifestyles, of people who manage to fashion a life (either out of good fortune or out of tenacity) that doesn’t quite fit the standards of propriety forced on us by the media and the people around us. Observing the surfers here in Levanto this week they give you the idea of serenity in their way of life. Sure, you say, they’re surfers! If they aren’t mellow, who is? But I think it’s too easy to categorize them that way. Sure there are some kids under the age of 20 who probably have very few concerns, but many of those present are past 30, have children and families to think about, their short careers, their futures.. And yet as they sit here twiddling their thumbs trying to pass the time while the waves stubbornly refuse to show up, it seems like they understand something that the rest of us don’t: that the stability of an office job, the comforts of a regular salary, and the assurances of knowing what the next day is going to bring are not all that important.
This is what makes them, or anyone else, alternative. Not the tattoos, piercings, long hair … it’s the awareness (conscious or not) that life has many colors, and that without all of the alternative tones, it becomes rather gray.