A semi-regular segment celebrating the most ridiculed and under-appreciated member of the surf culture, the kook.
Having missed out on grommethood, these guys come to surfing at a later stage of life and fall at its feet as if salvation awaits them. They may differ from each other in age and background and various out-of-water stuff, but the one thing that distinguishes them all is the enthusiasm they exhibit for their newfound passion, which is matched only by the most sun-walloped thirteen-year-olds. Every word uttered, every waking thought, is surf-related, and every session, no matter how small or crowded or windblown, is proclaimed as ‘Really fun!’ or ‘Pumping out there!’ to the point that you and the rest of the jaded bastards checking it just want to grab them and slap their face repeatedly while explaining that no, in fact, it’s not pumping out there, it’s fucking terrible.
But as far as kooks go, these guys aren’t a bad lot. They’re generally a harmless, good-natured breed who are only too willing to give you a hysterical hoot when you stroke into the set of the day or bolster your ego by telling you how sick that last cutty looked. And that’s the other good thing about them, for all their annoying overzealousness and diehard devotion, they’re rarely motivated by trivial matters such as perfecting their bottom-turn or wanting to be the best. They seem genuinely happy just to be out there, in the ocean, catching waves and sharing the stoke. But that’s also why you hate them. Or maybe not hate them, but resent them a little. They make you wonder, somewhat sadly, about your own lost surf-lust and why you can’t summon that enthusiasm you had as a grommet anymore, except on the most epic of days. And as a result, you can’t help feeling a little suspicious. What’s their secret? Not all newcomers possess the same unbridled exuberance, and where was all that energy directed before? The stock market? Bird-watching? Internet porn?
Eventually, though, you learn to tolerate their presence and even come to enjoy the positive vibes they bring to the line-up. They’re good for a chat and actually know a fair bit of stuff outside of the water, owing to the life they lived before becoming a full-blown surf tragic. Despite missing out on those vital early years, they clear the beginner stage relatively quickly, helped in no small way by their enthusiastic approach. They’ll never be a top-notch shredder (thank God—that’d probably push you over the edge), but they’re not the dorky-looking wannabe they were in the early days either. Soon they’re just an affable punter, slowly coming to terms with the complexities of the sport. And while you still reserve the right to think of them as a kook, the resentment and suspicion you felt at first has begun to fade. It’s being replaced by something else. You’ve seen it pop up a few times in recent months—a slight shake of the head after bogging a rail, a glimmer of frustration on those overcrowded days when waves are scarce. Call it hope. For you and them. Hope that one day soon they’ll come in from a small, onshore session and tell you, without a hint of their former gusto, that the surf was fucking shit.
Then you’ll be able to accept them. Then they’ll no longer be a kook.