Jan 20, 2011
I’d never been around surfers until a few years ago in St. Augustine. Who knew there’d be dozens or hundreds of them in northern Florida? Air temps are often in the 40s and 50s. Who knows how cold the water is? How would you go about conveying that?
The St. Augustine waves probably aren’t much compared to California or Hawaii, but these folks—a few of them in their forties, by the way—are totally committed to the action, as well as just sitting out there, bobbing up and down by a pelican, waiting, maybe, not only for the right wave but also the real feel of ocean and all that Romantic stuff about nature.
One size does not fit all for any group, including surfers, but I now wonder if a lot of them are more interesting than the airheads and flakes I probably presumed them to be, if I thought about them at all. Maybe they’re the genuine article, quiet dropouts and seekers. Maybe they’re like the mountain recluses, but with more sense of philosophy or spirituality, all gestalt and no guns.
Once I said to a shivering young thing as she dried off, “I guess you’ve gotta be committed to it.” “Yeah, she said. “Commitment and technology.” I liked that. You have to wear the right wet suit and ride the right board as well as having the right vision. It seemed like honesty, not self-serving narcissism or braggadocio.
Other than that exchange, I’ve never said more than “Hi-isn’t-it-cold-out-there.” Surely they’d see me as just one more of the middle-aged middle class, one more of the bitching bourgeois. The Academy is full of us, half-assed protesters, gutless idealists. If we were lawyers or brokers, you could call us Yuppies.
On the other hand, some of us have ended up that way not just from greed or laziness, but also from disillusionment with the impurity of almost every revolutionary we’ve known (which is part of what makes King and Gandhi special). If I’m going to be a hypocrite anyway, I might as well have a newer car.
I’m probably waxing dumb-Romantic myself by even half-hoping for the existence of a genuine and nonviolent revolutionary or recluse, a mystic on a hilltop or a wave, the thinking man’s hippie, the one who makes me feel genuinely guilty for settling and for self-interest. I haven’t found him or her yet, but as I watch the surfers for awhile, I can wonder.
As for today's poetry, I was surprised at Poetry Foundation to find that when I searched for "surfer poems" I got several responses.
I haven't recently looked at John Logan's work, and I never knew it well. But you'll see why I could not resist "Middle-Aged Midwesterner . . . ." "Shore Scene" might be the better poem, but I haven't spent long enough with either work to offer confident opinions.
Middle-Aged Midwesterner at Waikiki Again by John Logan : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.
Shore Scene by John Logan : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.