Friday, September 26, 2008

Riding The Wave

Chris Cutri, who published the preceding post, "End Strong," in addition to blogging here on The Sports Academic, makes films for a living. He is interested in all extreme sports, but recently made a documentary about surfing entitled "Riding the Wave." It is a look at how corporations have co-opted traditional surfing culture and how surfing and its practitioners have changed as a result. Cutri's film asks: If surfing is primarily about channeling free energy, about taking a gift from mother nature in the form of a wave and transforming it into an artistic art form, has the sport's commodification eroded its core philosophy?

With the rise of professionalism, it becomes difficult to maintain the type of aristocratic "hang loose" detachment that has characterized the surfer since the beginning and that was embodied by the classic 1966 surf film "Endless Summer." In fact, the title of that film implies it all: leisure, time, and detachment. Now surfing is big business and it confronts the kind of problems other sports have faced (1) as they move from a lifestyle/philosophy centered pastime to a sponsor-driven profession. Cutri's film examines the fissures this shift is creating as he interviews both CEOs and old-school surfing philosophers, both those pushing the sport into the mainstream and those holding to tradition.

Is it possible to stem the tide of commercializtion? Will putting substance over brand-name labels merely relegate surfing to a museum sport? Watch the film (the trailer is online here), and let Chris know what you think.

(1) one recent example is judo. When the sport became an Olympic event, much of the philosophy associated with the "art" disappeared in favor of match winning techniques and training. Many practitioners of Kendo are adamant that it not be made an Olympic sport so that its artistic and philosophical components can be maintained and so that it can remain above commercial interests.

No comments: