Does Your Personality Dictate The Way You Ride Waves?

by Stab August 23, 2017 3 min read

I felt close to drowning.

It was 8-foot and grinding down some unfamiliar reef in apoplectic fits of perfection. After getting a medium-sized one, I turned to see a set rolling in with my best friend very out of position. In typical fashion, he swung on the first one, took three of his massive gorilla strokes, fell from the sky and got annihilated by the lip. I couldn’t contain my laughter and took the wave on the head with no air in my lungs. Came up seeing galaxies.

He surfaced with a broken board and a big smile. It was a bona fide yard sale — and the exact type of environment my buddy thrives in. He’d maxed out his credit card to get there and would cite a great number of obscure and probably fake jobs when asked about paying it off. He just goes for it, always takes risks. He moves through his life with gorilla strokes.

Which is to say: My friend surfs like himself. You probably surf like yourself, too.

Think about Andy Irons. Raw, angry, insanely confident — all of those terms describe both his personality and his surfing. It takes some deep-rooted anger to attack a lip like that. Or take Greg Long’s calm, calculated demeanour on land and consider the patient, monk-like way he navigates an XXL lineup, sitting for hours on end, silently reading the horizon until he reads the line he’s had in his mind’s eye for literally years. The same way every aspect of Adriano de Souza’s surfing makes sense when you think about who he is—born poor and of true grit, there’s a work ethic in ADS that carries into his driven, focused approach on land. And young, quietly brilliant John John—his surfing’s understated, casual veil distracts from his radical nature. Sailing, photography, skateboarding, Pipe, Triple Crowns, Eddie’s, World Championships—all with that same nonchalant JJF flair.

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Andy’s healthier means to reject revenge, aggression and retaliation were implementing all three in water.


Tom Carey

Think about Mason Ho.

It’s easy to see how personality seeps into surfing. Our human nature doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. Timidity, recklessness, humour, and aggression—everyone that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing as both a surfer and person exhibits the same traits on a wave as they do on the beach. My more serious, focused friends? Textbook technique with the patience it requires to wait for a good one. The neat, aesthetically-driven ones? Clean style, simple lines. The loud and obnoxious dude? Hooting people off set waves, pumping down the line for one, flailing turn. I see it in myself — I love arbitrary fun and hate sitting still. Not coincidentally, I ride a 5’2”, froth on inside wedges and try dumb airs. I’m always getting caught inside.

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John’s surfing is a casual stroll through the psych ward.



The lineup isn’t a cathedral. It’s not a sacred somewhere immune to personality’s near-gravitational pull. On the surface, a wave should symbolise unlimited opportunity and ultimate freedom — but, as is the case with everything else in life, there are subconscious constraints. We are who we are.

Surfing, maybe more than writing even, is my truest form of expression. Now there’s no fucking way I’d ever call myself, as a surfer, an “artist” (though I find the term “athlete” even more laughable), it’s a perspective to consider when looking back on your time in the water. 

And if our personalities affect our surfing, maybe that’s a two-way street. Maybe surfing can be a mirror. If you’re depressed, surf happy—take out a novelty board, take your fins out, try some weird shit. Lacking confidence? Max out your credit card on step-ups and a ticket somewhere big, blue, hollow, and shallow. I know a guy who’ll join you. I’ll come along, just for shits and giggles.

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