The Surfing Lifestyle

Richard Garcia

Alice Gregory’s work “Mavericks” is a firsthand account of the Mavericks Invitational — an exclusive, surfing competition headlined by some of the biggest waves in the world. Gregory characterizes the surfers and fans alike. Her strategic use of imagery immerses the reader into the world of surfing. Through the use of sensory details and her role in the story, Gregory effectively showcases the surfing lifestyle and the unique competition between man and nature.

Gregory begins the piece with a myriad of sensory details that place the reader directly into the story. The sights and smells are peculiar to the average person, yet to Gregory and other people in the surfing world, they are all too familiar. Emphasizing the rich culture associated with surfing. Furthermore, Gregory describes the physical characteristics of the surfers to demonstrate the unique nature of the sport. She states, “…both men and women — possess all the features that constitute a modern, normative standard of beauty, but exaggerated to a ghoulish degree” (Gregory, 315). This characterization demonstrates how the surfing lifestyle includes physical characteristics as well.

Gregory inserts herself into the story, as she identifies with the surfing lifestyle. Having been a surfer herself she employs the jargon and common practices among the surfers. She includes a discussion about her days working in a surf shop to show how ingrained surfing culture is within her. There is a longing yet romantic tone to this section of the article. As if Gregory is reminiscing on the good ole days and her direct involvement in the surfing world. She further emphasizes her love for surfing within the conclusion of the article. She admits the last time she had fun was six years ago, the last time she surfed. (Gregory, 320). The Mavericks Invitational transported Gregory to the unique, closed-off world of surfing. With the conclusion of the competition, Gregory was quickly transported back to the real world as she states, “And then I drive away” (Gregory, 321).

Although surfers are competing against each other, the opponent at Mavericks is mother nature. A seemingly non-threatening wave can take a life at any moment, as evident from the story of Mark Foo. There is a deep understanding of this phenomenon that comes with the surfing lifestyle, as Gregory states, “Surfers have complicated relations with the waves they ride, somehow both adversarial and amorous” (Gregory, 319). It is the risk and thrill of each wave that surfers love. Furthermore, surfers are not traditionally competitive athletes. Gregory states, “Surf contests might be the strangest of all athletic competitions. They’re not fair and they can’t be” (Gregory, 315). Each wave presents a different challenge and at any moment tragedy can strike. The risk associated with each wave plays a significant role in the surfing culture. Gregory hints at the risk surfers take by stating, “…in case probability strikes and someone goes under”, (Gregory 319). Each surfer understands the risk he/she and their competitors are taking. There is an understanding that the Mavericks Invitational is a competition between man and nature. This perspective is solidified at the culmination of the event in which the winner announces he will split the cash with his competitors and refers to their relationship as a “brotherhood” (Gregory, 321). The gesture would be preposterous in any other sport, but in surfing, it comes with the lifestyle.

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