To Be a Surfer

A brief voyage into the poetry of California surfers

To be a surfer is to turn the ocean into pagan poetry. Picture the type of fabulous beast who inhales purified air where others drown. The surfer desires solitary confinement from the blessings of civilization. There is no hypothesis to explain the delirium of the surfer who shakes the ocean into effervescent pop as pure as dope. To be a surfer is to bebop as you watch Death swimming in your direction; it is to shrug the clouds that refuse to come to your defense. The surfer is Charlie Parker relaxin’ at the Camarillo surrounded by choppy seabirds. To observe a surfer is to witness a sculptor annihilating marble with their toes; it is to watch a shirtless philosopher creating a dialogue with the sun. The surfer stands contrapposto, like Michelangelo’s David, and turns their hips like a Ferrari going queer.

When they emerge from the water, their skin glimmers with a combustible sheen the cracks along the edges like pie crust. The surfer’s faded mane is covered in gold dust. Their car smells like jasmine, sandalwood, warm beer, and the breezy incense of endless summers. To kiss a surfer is to beg the sun for a one-night stand. Arthur Rimbaud, hello and yeah-yeah, it is possible to become ecstatic amid destruction.

The surfer articulates lines like a bestial Jackson Pollock waving vaya con dios in board shorts. If the surfer is art, then the act of surfing is the abstract expressionism of the curl. Even though surfing was not born on the glittering coast of the Golden State, the surfer is as Californian as 24-karat cheese melting over blackened beef. They are as Californian as the mewling child wobbling under the twirling vortex a hula hoop. They are the bronze movie star reading Ferlinghetti in tortoiseshell sunglasses. To be a surfer is to be the Vogue editor who is only envious of one thing…the surfer.

Surfing is as California as gasoline contact highs on the 405, crumbled screenplays stained with coffee, and battery-powered transistor radios singing in the key of impatient waitresses: “What kind of pie would you like before you die?” To be a surfer is to drown in the electric blues of the Pacific Ocean—where the freeway melts into foam. They break our hearts knowing we can never ride with them. They declare war against the heaviness of our lives. To be a surfer is to breakdance in the middle of the danger zone. It is to go cruisin’ with Smokey Robinson during a wildfire. It is to realize that Tom Wolfe is a dork and that California dreamin’ is never a one-night stand.