Click here for full the interview with Andy Martin the writer for Drift magazine.
This is an excerpt from the interview:
Most Drift followers will know you from ‘Stealing the Wave’, your book on big-wave surfing and the epic battle between the notorious Ken Bradshaw and Mark Foo. I love your comparison of Bradshaw to an ‘existential’ hero. Not many surf writers would employ such a device, and it’s also one of the easiest to understand descriptions of an ‘existential’ principle that I’ve ever seen. What interests me, though, is your perspective on surfing… Is it largely ‘existential’ or ‘essential’?
I’d like to turn this one around. Rather than think of surfers as frustrated philosophers, I now tend to think of philosophers as would-be surfers. So for example I see Jean-Paul Sartre, author of ‘Being and Nothingness’ and ‘Roads to Freedom’ as a kind of Ken Bradshaw figure, a hardcore hellman locked into a tragic trajectory, and Albert Camus, ‘The Outsider’, as a more of a Mark Foo, a little more manoeuvrable and stylish. His “dying in a big wave is a beautiful way to go” thinking is comparable to Camus’ “suicide is the first of all philosophical problems.” I suppose if there is a line that captures the ‘essence’ of surfing it is again Camus: “beauty is unbearable. It drives us to despair, offering us eternity in a moment that we would like to unwind across the whole of time.”
But Sartre explicitly fantasises about surfing in a passage in ‘Being and Nothingness’, where he compares our passage through the water favourably to skiing because it “leaves no trace”, no tracks in the snow.
In your opinion, are there many ‘thinking’ surfers, or do most of us live up the stereotype of having too much salt stuck between our ears?
I think most of us – perhaps all of us – think too much, but we tend to think in straight lines most of the time. Surfing is a different way of thinking about our relationship with the world. It goes off at an oblique angle. I like that.