SURF CULTURE: review from ‘ADRENALIN’
Laguna Beach is a funky town by
Orange County standards.
Sure it has its high-rent bistros and slick boutiques, and its streets are prowled by as many Porsches as any of the beach communities up and down LA’s coastal megalopolis. But ‘tuna town’ has a creative edge. You’re more likely to hump into an interesting character in somewhere like the Sandpiper, the late nigh divery on PCH, than you are the perfectly molar-ed spawn of a gated community. And this, moreover, is the centre of the surf universe as far as America is concerned. So what a perfect place to get together a definitive exhibition on surf culture that both reflects the material manifestation of wave-riding over the last century or so, and places it in its contemporary megabucks manifestation. And what a perfect context expands and adds to what was on show.
Hiring David Carson to design and produce Surf Culture: The Art History of surfing is another inspired decision by the publishers. Carson has become synonymous with surf culture in print through his association with Surfer magazine and, perhaps more importantly, the mould-breaking but tragically short-lived quarterly, Beach Culture, which, in the early nineties, attempted to break the stranglehold of hydro-porn and monocultural content that had (and continues to) beset mainstream surf magazines. Carson went on to create the initial designs for Raygun, another title whose visual identity broke ground during the publishing boom of the nineties.
There are interesting texts in the book by the likes of (you guessed it) Craig Stecyck, and an anthropological perspective on wave-riding by the University of Hawaii’s Ben Finney. Tom Wolfe’s classic deconstruction of San Diego’s Windansea surf community is re-produced, and Carson, as one would expect, provides fluid, dynamic layouts and images, which suit the intention and feel of the book perfectly, even if they are at times a little heavy-handed. But perhaps the book’s major achievement is its placing of surfing at the cutting edge of creative culture and, in this age of corporate bullshit in board shorts, actively asking the question: what exactly is surfing?
Surf Culture: The Art History of Surfing is available at all good bookshops. www.gingkopress.com