Sometimes a decade passes before you realise it has happened and by then it’s too late to realise it has happened. The revolution has arrived surfing. I know because I have seen it before.
@twitter… Day 4 called off…swell expected tomorrow at Billabong Pro Tahiti. Set your alarm!
Whistler, BC, 9-13…yes, 2001… 2 days after 9-11 I knew it had happened. Full armor, full suspension, full face, full release launch over that log on Upper Joy Ride that sent my RM7 sliding down the rock face and one lap down A-line later sent me to emergency with my back in full seizure and two transverse process in my spine snapped, one clean off. The revolution had arrived, just like I knew it had, but it was too late to escape the inevitable, the thrill, the hype, the bone jarring (aka breaking) and undeniably intimidating fascination that had emerged between the impacts and the blinding dust that swept NYC’s financial district when the first tower fell. I saw a picture online and didn’t understand. At home in Whistler, in the middle of it all, I simply didn’t understand and a day later went for a ride and broke my back. The revolution had arrived.
There were signs, despite the conspiracy theories and between the golden handshakes, that left me with my second broken back in as many decades…back, collarbone, wrist, triple separation – both shoulders. I should have known but we never do.
The first reality check was arriving in Whistler mid-90’s clipped in on my Proflex with the Gervin forks that somehow actually made sense back then (just ask the 92-94 world cup champ Henrik Djernis). Made sense that is until virtually every drop bottomed out my suspension – all 3 or 4 inches – and the internet tip I picked up that boiling elastomers for 5 or 10 minutes would restore their rebound capacity (if you were born in the 90’s you can skip to the next paragraph by the way). The boys at Evolution laughed, the other boys at Fanatyk Co. wouldn’t touch it and my buddy Simon at Simon’s on Robson pulled out the cost sheet and sold me the Rocky Mountain Reaper with the DJ fork for cost-plus $100…less than a year and a steep hard-tail learning curve later the RM7 with the triple crown moto fork took over. Meanwhile, the GLC drop at the base of the Whistler Bike Park doubled in size (the first time) and I chased Kev and Tippy down Crab Apple Hits chainless after snapping my derailleur off and blowing my rear brake on the A-line double (now a triple). No pedal noise, no gears, no shifting, no brakes, no flags, no time clock, no judges, no finish line, no Crankworx…just me, my bike and the wind in my face sailing through the air.
“Who do you race for?”, said the dude in the Turner shwag who chased me to the base. (Ha, ha…did I mention the decades passing part?) “I don’t race.” The revolution had arrived. Someone said something about Garbonzo, the GLC Drop doubled again, then they built a bridge up to the drop to hit it even faster (did you see the dude in the WC top 5 who bailed there full pedal in the Air DH this year…damn!), liability waivers are legal size – both sides, and the sport has entered the realm of the super-human.
Aside: for anyone out there who says, “Super human? Dude, anyone can hit that stuff on a rental bike…”, check this stat: two weeks ago the ever evolving Whistler Emergency unit logged a new record – 15 broken collar bones from the bike park in one Saturday…15 in one day. Super Human!
I’ve seen it before…did I say that? In 1992 (read: the epic pow year 1992) I spent a season starting the old diesel on the Bear at Fernie Alpine Resort (when the Bear was still a T-bar) stealing turns on my 200cm RC4’s (@65mm under foot) between shifts and watching the local Volkl’s float by on 100cm days and knew something was up. The long hair poking out of their handknit beanies and their dirtbag beards were straight out of Cuba and The People’s Revolution but even their lunches in rewashed ziploc bags couldn’t hide the Powder Rangers and the rare glimpses of CME Explosives at my feet as I popped the wooden T’s beneath their pack’s before they vanished into the BC back country for an hour or two. Even more telling was the ever silent stack of Atomic Powder Plus skis at the shop where I picked up my Raichle Flexon boots (even then the PP was 110mm underfoot and available in 190-200cm…did the Europeans already know the revolution was coming?)
By 1997 the ski world was on it’s head…Volant had the Chubb and the ridiculous reverse camber, reverse side cut Spatula – and the equally ridiculous Shane McConkey RIP, Freeskier magazine was on, FIS Sucks stickers were everywhere, and no, not even the powder junkies at Volkl and Atomic who had somehow unwittingly inspired the fat ski twin tip rocker revolution (who either quit and moved to Fernie with their stash of 200cm fatties or were shot when Atomic – Volant’s parent company – sold the Spatula patent to the obscure guys at Goode) could stop it when they saw it coming. The revolution had arrived.
Fast forward to 16-year-old local Sean Pettit’s opening segment on MSP’s 2009 instant classic with a long tribute to Shane, ‘In Deep’…and you’ll see skiing has joined the super human realm.
Back in Whistler, the phone I’m typing on now was ringing in the grocery bag in the front seat of the Silverado (the one with a six speed automatic and variable valve shutoff in 2010) while I buckled in the kids today and for some reason I actually ran around to answer it. It was my buddy checking in from a road trip somewhere in Colorado. The dogs, the kids, the weddings, yes, I’m still kinda selling my bike…and the 195’s I’ve been asking for are in the works. Like I said, I’ve seen it before.
Meanwhile @SurfTweeters posted earlier that the Billabong Pro at Teahupoo was called off again today with waves too small to surf. Wait a minute…WTF?
Stop reading! Quick! …plug-in the 1000 years of surfing intro on ‘Riding Giants’ on 8x fast forward…Greg Noll, no, Maverick’s, no, The Eddie, not yet, blur, skip, there…press play, yes, there. Laird Hamilton’s epic ride…. is now a scheduled ASP Billabong Pro Event? Again? That and the O’Neil Cold Water Classic in Tofino.
BTW. Feel free to click on, ‘Who is the best surfer? Who cares?’ Link if you need to catch up. https://streetsandpeaks.wordpress.com/2009/11/14/who-is-the-best-surfer-who-cares/
Sam George said, “What was once the realm of pure fantasy…stuff you could only see in animation, now guys were doing.” Well Sam, surfing…the revolution has arrived.
Some call it the progression of sport, and some more philosophically the inevitable progression, but in this day and age where truly anything is possible technologically, and seemingly anything we can imagine our bodies can physically do we are achieving, I think we need to stop and ask ourselves why? Why? Because a sponsors name is in the title? Because we all want to watch Kelly Slater win #10? Because we don’t think it will hurt / kill anyone? (Skiers know the answer to that one.) Or simply because we can? Are any of those reasons reason enough to change the face of the sport? Of Tofino? Of Tahiti? When I think twice as my home struggles in the wake of the lives lost and the transformation of the Olympic Games, I don’t know if I’ll watch this one.
What do you think? (Your comments are welcome below.)