28 August, 2019 28 August, 2019

In Defence of Aesthetics and MFeb’s Style

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!


  1. Saffa in Ireland
    28 August, 2019 at 4:59 pm · Reply

    “Is it true style when it’s just for the camera?

    Even Al Knost’s biggest fan would say no. (Though I’ll still watch him and Feb errrr’ damn day)” – a quote from the beach grit article.

    I think that the dude from the New Yorker is a sad old ballie that doesn’t appreciate something out of his comfort zone. MFeb might be milking the style cow, but jeepers, he does it SO WELL!! Who cares if he’s doing it just for the show? Surfing is an art form more than a sport form, and aesthetics have an important role to play…

    Wish I had that style while surfing, (I look like a stocky poo-man doing stop start turns) the skinny knock knee look just doesn’t suite everybody..

    Style on MFeb, don’t stress about the haters. And if you make a few extra moolah for being stylish, then good for you bru

  2. Simon
    28 August, 2019 at 5:03 pm · Reply

    Well said Andy !! couldnt agree more – Mikey keep styling bru!

  3. Gavin
    28 August, 2019 at 11:29 pm · Reply

    It doesn’t sound like Jamie has ever met Mikey. If he had he would know that Mikeys surfing style is an extension of his personality and not aimed at doing what the cameras are asking for. If he is going to write for a living he should do his research first, without that he just comes across as a troll.

  4. Rixom
    29 August, 2019 at 1:46 am · Reply

    Pissed myself laughing at the last line, my thought exactly, well played Zag!

  5. Ryan
    29 August, 2019 at 2:46 am · Reply

    Great response Andy, so on point!

  6. Name (required)
    29 August, 2019 at 7:36 am · Reply

    both article and response make interesting reading . perhaps unnecessary bringing a political tone into the defence though , words like … imperial first world Californian surfing standard …broader global context ….his own privilege …. being an African surfer . Sound like whinging

  7. Craig
    29 August, 2019 at 9:47 am · Reply

    Brisick whats your kind ekse! MFebs surfs kiff like hot chocolate running down ice cream.

  8. Grge Shark
    29 August, 2019 at 3:29 pm · Reply

    …..and the old style artist Gerry Lopez and a swath of his Hawaiian contempories?

    …..that’s how Mickey Feb has always surfed you ignorant self indulgent know nothing prick….jamie brisik

  9. Paul O
    31 August, 2019 at 12:46 pm · Reply

    First saw Fab Feb surf at Longbeach 12 years ago, his unique style was been honed back then and it wasn’t for the cameras. You come across as a sour, bitter Prick, Mr. Brisick, shut it!!!

  10. julian
    1 September, 2019 at 3:01 pm · Reply

    I have to go and look up the word ‘curmudgeonly’. Better be worth it Andy.

  11. julian
    1 September, 2019 at 3:03 pm · Reply

    It was worth it…Shot!

  12. CNUT
    2 September, 2019 at 12:07 pm · Reply

    ”perhaps unnecessary bringing a political tone”… well that has been Davis’ staid, soy-boy bent for years now since it destroyed Mahala.

  13. Andy
    2 September, 2019 at 3:05 pm · Reply

    CNUT, everyone knows you destroyed Mahala

  14. mark
    25 September, 2019 at 8:51 pm · Reply

    Great riposte, Andy Davis.

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