Some fresh outrage for you. Writing in the New Yorker, about the effect of cameras on surfing, veteran surf journalist Jamie Brisick said: “As a former professional surfer and as a documenter of surfing for nearly thirty years, I’ve observed how the omnipresent camera has affected surf style. In a clip on The Surfer’s Journal’s Web site, for instance, the South African pro Michael February surfs solo at a remote point break in West Africa. His hand jive, soul arches, and toreador-like flourishes play to the camera in a way that breaks the spell of the itinerant surfer in far-flung solitude. His style is as self-conscious as the duck-face selfie. And by no means is February alone. Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see it: exaggerated arms, too-perfect fingers, the surf dance served up almost smugly.”
Featured image – Alan Van Gysen
Surf media hyenas and outrage specialist Beachgrit immediately jumped on this passage and shared it under the headline: THE NEW YORKER: “MIKEY FEBRUARY’S STYLE IS AS SELF-CONSCIOUS AS THE DUCK-FACE SELFIE!” A brief scuffle ensued in the comments section. A place where hope for humanity goes to die.
Firstly, let’s be straight, Brisick is expressing his opinion here. It sounds a lot like a fact, but that’s just his perspective, for who’s to know what is going on in a surfer’s head while they ride a wave? It’s not like MFeb is shooting furtive glances towards the camera while he puts it on. In February’s case, it just so happens that riding retro surfboards in his own unique style has proven more rewarding for his career, than, say his ability to get barrelled, do power turns or boost airs. All of which, it’s good to point out, he has in his competitive quiver. Naturally, you play towards your strengths. Especially on an evocative surf/music video clip like Nü Rhythmov (edit below). To single out February for overcooking his style for the camera lacks generosity and nuance. It glibly omits the context of where Mikey February comes from and what it means for so many African surfers to have someone who represents us, operating at the top of the sport and doing it in a distinctive and original way.
Ultimately, Brisick has fallen into the trap, of judging February by a feckless and imperial first world Californian surfing standard, where being caught trying too hard is the ultimate sin. It’s a curmudgeonly and spiteful comment, that fails to grasp a broader global context and ends up saying more about his own privilege than whether Mikey February’s style is pretentious.
And all this to justify a perspective that itself rests in the eye of the beholder and is as ephemeral as the mist on a morning up the Wesksus. Here at the Zag, we say viva MFeb style, voetsek New Yorker kakpraat!