Waterspot: The Stepford Wave, and the power of One Kind Thing

Waterspot: The Stepford Wave, and the power of One Kind Thing
It ain’t perfect, but it’s home. Photo by Chris Ahrens

First, let me address the latest buzz in what we used to call surfing, Kelly Slater’s Wave Ranch in Lemoore, California.

It’s perfect. It’s a dream. It’s lame. It’s a nightmare. You decide. I don’t really know, because I’ve never seen it up close and never ridden it. Still, something about it reminds me of an old movie called “The Stepford Wives” where perfect drone-like women serve their husbands. It sounds like a great world, for males anyway, until the plan to kill half the human race in a race toward perfect is discovered. Note all plans for utopia — Stalin’s, Mao’s, Jones’ — and discover that they all ended up in a mountain of skulls. 

Of course I’m not comparing this wave machine to a totalitarian regime that ushers in the death of freedom, but it does seem our race requires certain imperfections in order to continue in a straight line.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe Slater’s wave will actually improve the world for the wilderness surfer by separating the sport’s lover who wants a surf stadium, from the adventurer who wants the unpredictability of dirt and salt water.

It might end like skiing where ski slopes and back-country untracked powder divide seekers in a colder world. Maybe surfing will finally be perfectly divided into sport and soul-searching adventure. The masses pay $100 a day for perfect waves and $10 hotdogs in Barstow while the rest of us venture into Baja to risk it “on one turn of pitch and toss.”

To me, the siren beauty of this wave is akin to a psychedelic drug, viewing the impossible with eyes wide shut, being called to stay asleep in a pretty dream world rather than wake to the harsh possibilities of flatness and onshore winds. Kelly’s Wave means that surfing as we know it is either over, or it has just begun. I welcome your comments.

            • • •

Please join us for One Kind Thing day (Oct. 1) in doing one kind thing.

For those who have been following the event, this brainchild of Tracy Ahrens means you can: call a friend, call an enemy, take a rival to lunch, help someone across the street, pay somebody’s toll, throw a homeless person a buck or do anything nice at all.  The catch is that you don’t tell anybody about it.

For those of us who surf, I would like to suggest something infinitely more difficult: Give a wave away, especially to a kook!

OK, you’re in position, someone is flailing to catch the wave in front of you, and you holler for them to go, or give them a gentle push to help them drop in. That one gesture can change everything including making a new friend and reminding you that the waves don’t belong to you anyway.

Of course you need not simply mark your calendars for Oct. 1 and be nice for a few seconds each year. You can do kind things anytime you like. Still, if you’re as out of practice as I am, give a shot at creating a better future for the surfing world.

This one kind act has the potential to change things even more than perfect surf in a previously unknown town.

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