The term surf hero is thrown around casually, and tends to include anyone who rides waves better than the majority of us.
But surfing is essentially a selfish activity, and heroes are generally those who sacrifice for others — maybe not to the extent of being dragon slayers or soldiers who jump on grenades, but people who regularly think beyond their own pleasures.
Sadly, if that’s the criteria, few among our tribe qualify for the title.
They can ride big waves, do difficult maneuvers and win contests, but without some degree of self-sacrifice they are merely performers on a liquid stage.
There are not many heroes among us, because nearly all the waves any of us have ever ridden are for our benefit alone.
Still, there are those who have managed to excel at surfing while lending a hand to the less fortunate. The adjacent photo features four of them.
Beginning on the left is local legend Rob Machado. Machado remains one of the fastest surfers in the world, and it was he who almost singlehandedly brought style back into our sport.
Out of the water, his Rob Machado Foundation works to rid the world of plastics and other pollutions. You’ll find him riding waves and/or playing his guitar wherever people are gathered for a good cause.
Up next is Shaun Tomson. This world champion is one of the most inventive surfers ever to touch wax. He is often credited as the first surfer to turn while in the tube, something responsible for making surfing vastly more exciting.
The movie he produced, “Bustin’ Down The Door,” tells a tale of grace under pressure as he and a handful of Australians faced life and death on the North Shore in the mid 1970s.
Shaun was this year’s chairman of the 100 Wave Challenge, where surfers ride waves to benefit kids who often lack fathers and need positive mentors like Shaun.
Not known for his surfing, Sam Armstrong belongs in this aquatic Mt. Rushmore because he was there 25 years ago when a small group of us sat around a table to discuss how a bunch of surfers could raise money for cancer research.
At last count, the Moores Cancer Center Luau and Longboard Invitational had raised more than $9 million for the cause. That, in large part, is due to Sam’s unwavering commitment.
Tom Curren is on everyone’s top-10 list of favorite surfers. Radical, stylish, creative, the three-time world champion has done it all.
An advocate for all things good, the Tom Curren Band and the man himself are forever giving all they have to causes like the aforementioned Longboard Invitational and the Switchfoot Bro-Am.
Of course these are not the only surfers of note to sacrifice for a cause.
While there are too many to name here, there are those among us who pour themselves into aiding the handicapped, or participate in Windansea Surf Club’s “Day at the Beach” offering inner city kids a shot at the life we have all taken for granted.
Here’s to those of you who quietly mentor a child, or walk the sand picking up the discards of an increasingly plasticized planet.
Surfing remains an individual sport done for individual pleasure.
If you want to enhance that pleasure, however, try giving something back. Clean up the beach, help a kid. It’s what heroes do.