Monday, January 18, 2016

'Surfers' captures Kiwi lifestyle with impressive vignettes

As the name suggests, 'Surfers – A Kiwi Lifestyle', is a book that encapsulates the unique culture that is the New Zealand surfing scene.

Surfers – A Kiwi Lifestyle by Jo Caird and Paula George. Bateman Publishing. Price $39.99. Reviewed by Ben McConnell 

'Surfers - A Kiwi Lifestyle', will appeal most to those who seek to learn more about New Zealand's varied surf culture, or perhaps everyday Kiwis simply looking for a brief reflection on how the surfing scene sits as a subculture to other NZ sports, like rugby.  Moreover, the book is dedicated to detailing the mixed personalities, families, ages and sexes that help make up the rich culture that is surfing in NZ.

Noticeably, the angle of the book is from an outsider's perspective looking in, which offers a unique view sometimes lacking in books about surfers or surfing written from those that have years of surfing experience under their belts. Often authors of surf books overlook certain areas of the surf industry (see learners, first timers, even the old boys) as trying to avoid the cultural cringe that seasoned surfers often feel when seeing another coffee table surf book for sale.

A Kiwi lifestyle is about individuals, from competitive surfers through to weekend warriors, the books does well at covering a large array of different personalities who can be found in line- ups throughout New Zealand. Each interviewee offers their own perspective as to why they are so enamoured with the sport/art form that is surfing.  

As an avid surfer for the last 23 years, I can vouch that we have a rich and varied history of characters that help to make up the culture of surfing around New Zealand.

"Out there, sitting in the water, it's hard to tell the company CEO from the tradesmen". As the quote suggests, surfing in New Zealand is a unique pastime. We are a melting pot of individuals who all share a common trait, we love to surf and make the most of our wave rich coastlines. A Kiwi lifestyle paints a unique picture of all the walks of life that make up our surfing DNA. 

Surf books all too often walk a thin line of respectability and kookiness.  Inherently and rightfully so, surfers guard their passion of surfing with vigour as our culture has all too often been recycled in mass media as cringe worthy representations of how others perceive 'us' to be.

For the most part, 'Surfers-A Kiwi Lifestyle' walks this line with only a few moments of cringe (in particular, a couple of photos that shall remain unmentioned). The book's strengths lie in the strong array of surfers the authors have tracked down to interview (Matt Scorringe, Tipene family, Tony Baker among them). This gives the book an air of respectability whilst accurately capturing the spirit of New Zealand surfers.

No matter who, what or where you are from, we all share something in common, we all love surfing and are in it for life (except Gary McComick, he's done with it apparently).

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