A few years ago, I moved to Australia, the land of sunshine, sea and surf.
Before emigrating, I was aware of surfing. I had occasionally seen hardy souls, clad in neoprene wet suits, falling off their boards into cold water off the coast of the UK. But, let’s face it, Britain’s bitty, choppy little waves don’t compare with those in Australia.
I can’t surf, by the way.
I don’t even know how it’s done. Surfers don’t seem to obey the laws of physics like us mortals have to. They balance on slippery boards, on moving waves that rise and fall and crash. The surfers seem to have some strange connection with sea water, knowing where and when the waves will rise; they intercept and ride them, springing onto their boards with uncanny ease. They twist and turn on the moving, slopes of water and even perform flips. That’s not natural, is it?
Surfing is a big part of the culture here. Most people in Australia live near the coast, and the beach is hard-wired into the Aussie psyche. At the top of this continent-sized, sandy pile is surfing, king of beach sports. Surfers are celebrities, and their champions are superstars. Australians love a winner. Surfing has big money from corporate sponsors, it’s on the TV every weekend; you could say it’s part of the Australian establishment.
Maybe that’s why the backlash started.
Unsurprisingly, many Australian sports teachers love surfing. They teach a curriculum set by the government, teaching the children about all kinds of sport and fitness activities. However, some say that surfers are biased: they fill the kids’ heads with stories about surfing. Curiously, other kinds of sports people aren’t taking this anti-surfing line – although they would love to have the kind of funding, attention and support that surfing gets. No, it’s only non-sports fans who are critical.
Lately, this nastiness has reached a new low.
Shockingly, some individuals have attacked and even killed surfers. They claim to be doing it in the name of their sport, but those sports reject this, and they say the perpetrators are not real fans. Then some other people, who claim to be protecting the surfers, or the Sportiarchy, have attacked and killed other sports’ fans. Again, the surfers reject these claims, and they reject those who do these things. That’s not what surfing is about, they say. Love and peace, man!
Now, some people are even denying that surfing is a thing. If we can’t do it, they argue, then it can’t be real can it? It must be a trick, a conspiracy. It’s time to dismantle the Sportiarchy; it shouldn’t be allowed, they grumble. Surfing charities shouldn’t get tax breaks. Not that the critics are offering to fill the gaps left by the excluded surfers; they’re not offering to give any money or volunteer. All this makes no sense to me.
I Believe in Surfing
Still, I love the ocean, and I can’t understand why we can’t all just play our sports, or just sit on the beach, and let the surfers get on with it. I can’t surf, but I believe that surfing is real.
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