Surfers & the Academic – Who wins?

AcademicsThe academic who surfs has placed himself squarely in the subliminal middle of two confrontational camps. Camps that historically have so little time for each other that for one of them to admit the meaningful existence of the other may well take the time it needs for one of them to become like the other. A bizarre fancy.

The academics’ claustrophobic horizons are bound stolidly by the annotated contents of his reference books and study papers; the surfer, in his boundless mothersea, holds sacred the one square metre of rootless swirl that separates him from the several out of town oafs who have paddled out and surrounded him.

The academic, thin haired and pot bellied at any age, can sit in a warm room for hours lost in the revelations of his subject matter. The surfer, shaven and big bellied in his maturity, is also able to remain stationary – waist deep in cold water – for just as many hours, waiting for the aforesaid Out of Towners to either paddle elsewhere or be lost in the vagaries of a riptide.

Academics have a single minded and closeted view of the world, and they rarely travel to the same far corners of this circular earth to where surfers mingle with their peers.

Not for them the high adventure of the chattering throngs who surf and shop at Kuta, Hawaii or Noosa. Their destinations rank far distant on the scale of visceral thrill – Lanzhou, Egypt, The Horn of Africa, the Balkans, and the Russian Steppe – Urumqi. Palestine. Adelaide.

Academics wash irregularly, they favour the hirsute look rather than the groomed, they collect a wardrobe about themselves that is more sloven than stylish and from time to time they can be seen to be wearing their grandfathers’ hats. Academics are renowned for their ability to collect and exhibit the twin anti-social demons of halitosis and dandruff. Some suspect, deliberately.

Surfers, on the other hand, are regularly cleansed by the sea, and depending on the accumulation of years and the natural deforestation of the head, can be either fully bushed or shaved hard to the skull.

Surfers of all ages are transfixed by fashion; cars, clothes, dogs, women, hats, restaurants, music, surfboards, magazines, attitudes and deeply religious convictions. They also suffer regularly from a severe sinus disposition that manifests itself at inopportune times in a lengthy discharge of coagulated sea matter. They gamble with blindness – both moral and physical – with the untreated and vigorous growths of pterygium – and the resulting, and unfortunate, inability to see whom they are having intimacy with.

Academics converse in a language – a dialect – which registers faintly as a dull and incomprehensible murmur to a majority of the populace. They rarely raise their voices even when tempted by a vociferous and inelegant opinion from a first year Law degree student who has crossed their path and who argues out of his depth.

So many of whom, unfortunately, thrive like larvae on a carcass in this litigious era of social liberalism. But that is another chapter already in the making.

Surfers do not converse, they communicatively compete. Their overheard conversations, if nothing else, resembles that of a roomful of shrill voiced women sorting lingerie in a Dongguan sweat shop.

It’s all about size.