WELCOME TO THE BEATING HEART OF YOUR ADDICTION
WE ARE THE SPIT
THE TRADE WINDS
THE HOWLING GALE
WE ARE BACKWASH
Through the tide window that allows this wave to breathe, greylags migrate overhead in honking strings, fodder for the guns. It’s butchery for these few weeks as the freezers get stuffed full of dead geese.
Through the windless morning of dense grey cloud and intermittent showers of dancing rain the occasional set passes across the sound, lifting the kelp forest that fringes the white suck rock. It’s a beautiful takeoff, a great shallow draining apex that briefly reframes the line. Fickle and frustrating as fuck waiting for it to happen.
We know that our physical composition is overwhelmingly fluid. We start little, rise and expire, physically returning to the earth. The chemical composition of our blood closely mirrors that of seawater. There’s no great wonder this shit feels good.
I like the porosity of surfing, the way the edges are always being defined. Ten years ago I interviewed Nat Young. He elaborated with regret about his role in defining surfing as a sport. He spoke of alternatives – how it could have been evaluated as a form of dance, a high art with enormous cultural significance. Nat spoke with a tinge of regret. “It’s a could-have, should-have, would-have,” he said, “but it simply didn’t.”
Surfing’s now going through a sort of nostalgia fashion parade circle jerk, yet for all this frippery, our real initiation and rites of passage take place at the beach. We are fused with the genius loci of place, wrapped up in rhythms that landlubbers can only dream of. We cultivate deep affection for strips of sand and fingers of rock, as ecologists do with flora and fauna. We sit comfortably in a symphony of natural movement, synchronous parts in the procession.
It could become cool to intimately understand your ocean environment, the different species and their respective fortunes, to clean up beaches. As a network for ecological and social change, surfers could form a potent force. I think systems, hierarchies and cultures exist to be messed with. If surfing has any countercultural spirit left at all, I’d see that as our duty.
Out on the island, a set of waves threads the skerries and I put my head down to pick the largest, matching a creaky bottom turn with the bending swell. Doomed geese flutter westward. The saltwater blood keeps pumping.
Backwash Issue Two is a surf anthology featuring Japan, the photography of Chris Burkard and Sergio Villalba, Hamish Laing and Woody Gooch. Kalani Lattanzi swims at Nazare, whilst Amy Kotch surfs barrels whilst pregnant and John Peck knee paddles out as he has done since 1958.Purchase