Surfsploitation when mainstream life steals the word 'surf' it's one big exploitation.
Hey, want to be cool? It’s easy! Just insert the word ‘surf’ into your product, song, movie and you can instantly assume enough cynical uber-cred to make hipsters look like…well, hipsters.
#1 Surfing Without A Net
Sure, there’s a bitter irony about surfing the net to find the origin of the phrase ‘surf the net’. Jean Polly coined the phrase in a 1992 article for the Wilson Library Bulletin, appropriating the idea from a mouse pad labelled Information Surfer.
Sadly, most copies of the article were destroyed because another story in the same issue entitled ‘Sex and the Librarian’ was deemed too racy for publication. By librarians.
#2 Eddie Wouldn’t Go
Enduring punk band the Butthole Surfers challenge every surfer’s predilection to mind-surf anything vaguely shaped like a wave. At their first paid gig, the announcer forgot their name and introduced them as Butthole Surfers, the name of their first recording.
Previous names include Fred Astaire's Asshole, Ashtray Babyheads, and Nine cm Worm Makes Own Food, thanks to an early decision to change for every gig.
Before forming the band Haynes published the magazine Strange V.D., featuring photos of abnormal medical ailments, with fictitious, humorous explanations. He was sacked from his accountancy job when discovered with one of the pictures: the rest is rock ‘n roll history.
#3 Surf Invents Metal
Dick Dale has been ‘King of the Surf Guitar’ since his first album, Surfer’s Choice (1962) became the soundtrack for an emerging generation of US surfers.
The style, conceived when Frank Sinatra was a rock star, features high-speed picking, maximum volume, reverb and vibrato, and heavy bends. Dale worked with Fender to create increasingly beefy amps, including the first ever 100 watter.
His frantic licks had nothing to do with surfing, harking back to his Lebanese musical heritage. In fact Dale is a switch-foot guitarist – he plays left handed on a guitar strung for a right hander.
#4 Mein Surf Kampf
Big Wednesday and Point Break are movies which attempted to convey the mystique of surfing to a mainstream audience. Surf Nazis Must Die did not. The poster features a machine-gun wielding guy on a candy-striped mal with a chainsaw fin about to run over a bikini babe haplessly floating in the lineup on half a thruster.
This scene wasn’t in the movie, which was more about lame gangs hanging out in sewer pipes at some post-apocalyptic Californian beach indistinguishable from any pre-apocalyptic one. Hang ten Gestapo style!
Distributed in 1987 by Troma Films, also responsible for Toxic Avenger, Rabid Grannies and Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, Surf Nazis neatly exploits the media’s ‘feral’ view of surfing following the 1986 OP Pro riots, while clearly demonstrating a towering ignorance of what Occie and Curran were doing to surfing.
#5 The Really Real Thing
Coke sells cola by advertising lifestyle. The ability of surfing to continuously provide a roadtrip through young imaginations is captured by the litany of Coke surf ads, each a moment of good-looking zeitgeist.
Bruce Brown narrated a 1966 coke ad: ‘Coca Cola is the most popular drink in the Islands because of how it tastes when you come in from the waves’. George Greenough’s in-the-barrel footage from 1973’s Crystal Voyager found its way into a Coke TV ad.
From 1976 to 1991 Coke sponsored the world’s richest surfing. First winner Michael Peterson’s lifestyle was never going to be featured in a soft drink commercial on prime time TV.
#6 Surfa Sam
It’s ironic that the iconic Australian skateboard was designed by a doctor, since its crap performance resulted in more injuries than any other product in Australian surfing.
Until real skaties from California arrived in 1975, Surfa Sam was the default shop-bought weapon for ‘land surfing’, characterised by massive truck free-play, wheel grab on the most benign turn, and a Cadillac-sized arse-end overhang.
Dubbed ‘Surfa Sam’ by ad-man Victor Violet, the sticker of a pudgy, waving surfer confirmed to every parent that this inherently evil toy was clearly harmless.
#7 Everyone F’ Coffee
World-championship Ignorance of Surfing goes to coffee pusher Illy, with its lavish Coffee Surfing – In Search of Sips of Happiness.
This lush web-site depicts coffee sippin’ folks around the globe juxtaposed with their quirky, cool doings: rolling sushi and standing backwards in a convertible Volkswagen.
Stealing surfing’s ‘search’ concept, the website sends a world famous photographer you’ve never heard of to take pictures of hipster dudes which capture their coffee-induced moments of surfless ecstasy.
#8 Soap’s Up!
From the company that brought you Omo and Persil comes a brand bursting with salty freshness – Surf! Clearly nobody at Unilever ever put a clean t-shirt over salt-crusted skin.
Surf was introduced to Australia in 1959 but took years to make the obvious connection. The 1991 ‘Get Surfin’ ad totally milks surfing, with smashing reos, company logo on boards and flags, faux Beach Boys soundtrack and ‘Get Surfin’ tagline. Even a Baywatch lifeguard!
#9 Where’s the Brasso?
Silver Surfer placed #42 in the Top 100 Comic heroes, which leaves him well out of contention for the world title.
Surprising when Silver Surfer’s powers include time travel, revitalising life on a planet-wide scale, and the ability to switch feet. Plus his surfboard moves faster than the speed of light and is virtually indestructible, but has rails like a shoebox.
Invented by Marvel Comics’ Jack Kirby in 1966 as an addition to the Fantastic Four, the idea for the flying surfboard happened because ‘I’m tired of drawing spaceships’.
#10 Sun Bacon
German grocery blow-in Aldi’s TV ad in 2012 featured surfing Santas, one nose-riding with a Christmas ham in hand, and a soundtrack that combined ‘Hawaii Five-O’ with a chorus of ‘Ho Ho Hos’.
Ad industry blogs reveal remarkable insights into surfing and Christmas:
‘I bet this ad was created by non-Aussies who see the novelty of Santa surfing in summer.’ Because bona-fide Aussies wouldn’t blink if they saw some tool holding a leg of ham charging the Bondi closeouts in a Santa suit.