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Writing about surfing

June 8, 2011

I’m still grappling with how to write about surfing for my surfing chapter. It’s been suggested I leave it until we go on holiday to Hawaii, arguably the birth place of surfing. But then they would cut me a bit adrift from the geographical and social context of surfing in Dunedin and down South, where I live. I think part of the problem of writing about it is that I consider it such a part of me, and hence my identity, unlike say hunting or adventure tourism etc.

However, it is reassuring to know I’m not alone. Matt Warshaw in Zero Break, a collection of surf writing, talks about the inherent difficulty of writing about surfing, “the sport doesn’t easily lend itself to a customary setup/conflict/resolution plot structure, but instead fits into most sufers’ lives as a familiar and indispensable routine, like running, or church, or therapy.” Surf journalist Mike McGinty also describes how difficult it is to get across to the non-surfer, what is essentially an embodied experience: “I don’t need paper and ink, I need 24-karat gold monster-cable speaker wire with one end plugged into Backdoor Pipeline and the other soldered into your adrenal gland. I need elongated vowel sounds and exaggerated hand movements.”

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