We need to surf, and we don't need to buy t-shirts to do this.
A little while ago, during a very famous surfing tournament in JBay featuring some very well known surfers, I bumped into an old surf industry-savvy friend of mine from Australia. We had a fast, fleeting yet meaningful conversation on surfing and the meaning of life. What we both agreed on, is that while we’re in a bit of a downward trend right now, there are still many people surfing, all over the globe. There are crowds everywhere, but they just don't seem to be wearing surf anymore. He was wearing a black round-neck fisherman’s jersey, while I was bedecked in some athleisure-wear from my personal golden age of fitness…
How we laughed at the various levels of irony our conversation and our attire could relate to.
We all seem to have way less money these days, and when we do, we make way more prudent purchasing decisions than when impulse buying was the only thing we knew. We need to surf, and we don't need branded tee shirts to do this. With this in mind, here's what the most important purchases are for the indigent surfer.
The Surfboard. Yeah, without a board you’re doing yoga on the beach. There are so many options out there, but surfers nowadays can't afford a quiver of new tech and futuristic designs, so your choice of stock has to be more carefully thought out than grabbing the latest technology, planshape and foam technology. If you need one board for most conditions then choose a board that is a little longer and a little heavier than what you’d like, so that you have something you're confident enough on when it starts getting overhead, but it's also workable when it gets tiny.
The Wetsuit. If it’s freezing and you’re without a wetsuit, you’re not catching waves. A knitted jersey is not going to cut it at Bells. There are good suits out there, and there are great suits out there. The problem is that there is a kind of inverse relation to the quality of a suit and the longevity of that suit. In order to find value, do your homework on the suits, and find out which brand produces the most durable wetsuit, as well as has the best repairs/returns policy. They differ dramatically, and once you've found the best one for your needs, that'll be your best value wetsuit for the challenging times. No need to go for the 2/2 contest suit either, they’ll be trashed after one season.
The Leg-rope. Without the strongest, most effective leg-rope around, you run the risk of damaging your surfboard, and without cash for another board and for possible repairs, the leg-rope is your salvation for surfing endlessly without having to dip into money that belongs to the bank. There's no need for a thin competition leash, and similarly a big wave leg-rope will feel like an anchor and ruin many a smaller wave surf. A sturdy, tested leg-rope for medium size conditions is all you need, and make sure that the leg-rope brand has a one-year guarantee. Whether you utilize it or not is irrelevant, it simply signifies that the company has faith in their equipment.
The fins. Here's your final necessity to enable yourself to be able to go surfing, for months and years, without unnecessary spending. There are many options and variables when it comes to fins and fin systems, and some of them are slightly less functional and sturdy than others - superlight fins are less strong, cheap fins are bendy and unstable. The set of fins that you select are going to guide you through barrels, dawn patrols, points and slabs, and they need to be sturdy and reliable and they need to be sleek. Take your time, do your homework, and spend what you have to. Fins are not cheap, and because many aren’t used to paying good money for them due to the tradition of glass-ons and free fins with board purchases, many of us don’t make wise decisions with fins. This needs to be refigured.
Remember that on a purely desperate level, wax and boardies are way down the priority scale - you can melt down candles and you can surf in cut-off jeans or your undies, and tee shirts and hoodies are even less of a priority. You only need a board, wettie, leash and fin-set to survive the financial apocalypse, and maybe beer.