Shameless nostalgia in the Age of the Internet.
A mate dropped a box of old tapes over the other day. As the only person within a hundred miles who owns a functioning VHS player, he figured they were better in my hands than his. Didn’t look like much—an old carton of Coopers Green, some dust-covered videos, a couple of dead spiders—but to the once rabid grommet inside me, it was like a vault from the past. There was Kelly Slater in Kolor, No Destination, Sons of Fun. There was the original Billabong Super Challenge and the epically-soundtracked Hawaii 9-3 (Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Danzig). There was Eddie Murphy Uncut and a couple of Bruce Lee films chucked in to boot.
There was also this irresistible feeling I couldn’t help indulging. I was transported back to a time when Oscillators and Occy’s signature Globes were all the rage. When the only economies worth partaking in were the high school surf vid trade and its seedier but equally as seductive cousin, the high school porno trade. When to truly own a surf vid (or a porno, for that matter) involved not just watching it yourself eight hundred and eighty-eight times, but sending it on a spiritual pilgrimage that saw it disappear into a mate’s school bag and miraculously resurface again months later in the hands of some kid you’d never even spoken to. Those videos were like Tolkien’s ring—they gained a kind of power and notoriety with every grubby set of grommet paws that clutched them, every sunburnt set of eyeballs. They inspired cutbacks, haircuts, whole ways of identifying yourself with the world. First bongs were undoubtedly pulled in their presence. Unthinkable combinations of swear words uttered.
Now there’s the internet. Now there’s more surf footage online than anyone knows what to do with. I’m sure today’s groms aren’t complaining. They can watch entire contests live from their lounges when all we got were thirty-second snippets on the news. They can scope more vision of Slater in a few hours than we got in five years of wheeling and dealing. But they’ll never know the horror of getting Between the Cheeks stuck in the family VHS player. They’ll never know the frustration of trying to pause a Margo rooster tail at just the right moment.
I sound like I’m ninety. I sound like one of those pricks I hear at the pub and form an instant aversion to. Still, there was something in that period, something tangible and communal that’s unlikely to be repeated. For those who lived through it, I doubt all the Instagram clips in the world could make up for the feeling of laying eyes on Searching for Tom Curren or Momentum for the first time.
Which makes me wonder, what happened to all those iconic artefacts? Mum threw out most of mine in an act of parental neglect I’m still trying to get over.
But it’s all good. I’m rolling in them again.
Have you still got yours? Want to get swapping?
Here’s a bonus section of Margo, Ross Williams and Shane Dorian from the Jack McCoy masterpiece Sons of Fun!