Surfing has such a place in our national imagination, and rightly so, if you ask me. It is addictive and simple. It is relaxing and exciting. It is showy and low-key.
With that in mind, we’ve asked our surfer-cum-writer friend, Ashton Goggans to pick 5 things to get anyone aspiring to a wet life.
1. Surf Movie
2. Swim Fins
Ninety percent of surfing is paddling and reading the ocean. There’s no better way to get an understanding of the way a lineup works, the way catching a wave feels, and the real strength required to take up surfing, than bodysurfing. Grab some Churchill or Viper fins and go for a swim. Vipers are a bit stiffer and better for speed.
3. Surf Lit
All For a Few Perfect Waves: the Audacious Life and Times of Miki Dora. If surfing has given the world one important thing, it was Dora. Dora was the most radical and irreverent surfer of all time, a man who one could argue gave birth to the very idea of post-War youth rebellion, to the on-film characters played by Dean and Brando, to Dogtown, Black Flag, Agent Orange, etc. The Dark Knight of surfing’s biography is a must-read for anyone interested in the true roots of surfing’s underground appeal.
4. A Good Board
I’m a firm believer in mid-length surfboards, loosely defined as a full-volumed board between 6’6” and 8’0”. A bigger guy can go for a full-on longboard; a petite lady or gent can go a little shorter. But the fact of the matter is, 99% of surfers don’t surf like the dudes on the ASP tour, for whom most modern equipment is designed. Get an egg, a fish, a funboard, or a mini-log, and focus on catching waves, learning how to navigate a lineup, standing up. My good friend and shaper Larry Mayo made this 7’2” Egg and it is one of my favorites. By the time your skills outgrow your equipment, you’ll probably have beaten the poor board into the ground anyway. Get something made in the USA, a board you can feel proud to carry past a cluster of bikini-clad Gidgets, or bronzed beach boys.
5. Board Shorts
Birdwells. These are a personal favorite, and possibly not for everyone, but the original boardshort, worn by most every surfer that grew up in the 1960’s, every lifeguard worth his weight in sunscreen and life preservers, etc, are IMHO the most classic, understated, stylish trunks you can sport down the the beach. Short, single-color, tough as nails, made in the USA, these things scream street cred.
Ashton Goggans is a writer and surfer, based out of Sarasota, Florida. He grew up surfing on the Gulf Coast and made his way up through the ranks of the Eastern Surfing Association, eventually becoming the Southeast Regional Champion when he was 17. He gave up competitive surfing to pursue a career as a writer, graduating from The New School in New York City. His work has been published in n+1, SRQ, Sarasota, edible, and elsewhere. He writes a weekly food column for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. He lives in Nokomis, Florida, a mile away from the best surf spot on the Gulf Coast, North Jetty, with his French BullPug, Lemon Rimbaud. He is currently looking for a writing job that would require traveling to very far-off places. Hire him.