In the third installment of our Four Pillars series we share the stuff that inspires us – and ask, what is Soul Surfing? ...and in doing so kinda explain why we are called Soul & Surf.
Words Ed Templeton & Rachel Lingham | 5th April '23
Soul surfers surf for joy, they surf to travel, they surf to learn, they surf to connect to nature, they surf to be part of a community, they surf to live a life less ordinary, they don’t surf as a sport to win prizes... it's a little bit more spiritual than that.
...a complete and consuming immersion in nature, a submission to the whims of a set of corduroy lines determined by a pressure system in a faraway ocean. It is soul and life and compassion and style – and a glimmer of connection to the present moment that is addictive and extraordinary and essential.
Soul surfing connects directly to the origins of surf counter-culture from the 50s, 60s and 70s before surf became a business, back when surfers were rebels. This culture of surfing-as-a-way-of-life continues the leftfield, creative, outsider spirit of the pioneers and crosses over into and is often expressed through surf board shaping, art, music, film, photography, literature, activism and purpose-led business.
We are influenced and inspired by soul surfers that celebrate this connection in their individual ways, are proud of their beliefs and who are, let’s be honest, really beautiful to watch. The ones that make us want to pick up a board and race to the nearest break, just to surf a bit more like them, to be more like them.
Here's our Top 20 Soul Surfers from the last 50 years or so. The ones that have chosen to express themselves through style, innovation, alternative craft, art, music, activism and an understanding of this precious connection with the ocean.
The surf films that have motivated us to give it all up and just go surf show more than just ‘gnarly waves bro’. A surf movie should inspire us, to say something important, to make us grateful for our time spent in the ocean and to make us desperate to get back out there.
A marriage between music, cinematography, content, nature & documentary. Movies depicting kaleidoscopic views of surfing, not just world champs surfing killer waves on tiny boards. The list of our Top 15 Soul Surfing films forms a significant part of the motivations and foundations of Soul & Surf.
Are surfers predisposed to be artists or is it that artists are attracted to surfing? Whichever way you look at it, the two often go hand in hand.
Of course there’s professional functional surf art and photography but where it gets interesting for us is where it captures the intangible, the essence of the surf experience, the feeling, the culture, the… soul. Hit the 'read more' for an eclectic selection of some our favourite artist and photographers:
How many sports have such interwoven music scenes? Is there a tennis ‘soundtrack’? Don’t think so.
Immerse yourself in the soul surfing world, the films, the magazines, the social media and you quickly discover how many surfers make music and how many musicians surf. The boundary between the two disciplines seems blurred.
Here’s another eclectic and by no means exhaustive selection of surfing musicians and musician-ing surfers:
From travel writing to magazines to fiction there’s a spirit of adventure, a sense of freedom, a walk on the wild side captured in the best surf writing. The best soulful surf literature inspires us to travel, to think, to feel and to… surf more.
Fancy an eclectic, random but by no means exhaustive selection of surf literature?
Businesses founded and run by surfers have been amongst the pioneers of purpose-led, sustainability-focused, innovative businesses demonstrating that people, planet and profit should be equal priorities.
Patagonia has long been our inspiration of how a business can have genuine purpose and be genuinely successful, followed closely by our friends at Finisterre.
A handful of soul surfing brands that continue to inspire us, from large to small:
Soul Surfing ocean and environmental organisations
Many ocean-focused environmental groups have been founded and are run by surfers. We spend so much of our lives at play in the ocean so it’s only right we play our part in understanding, communicating about and protecting our oceans. Our friend, collaborator and scientist Natalie Fox has founded or is involved in many surf-related activist organisations which we support whenever we can:
There are many others, here’s a few we like or support:
It requires a deep understanding and connection with the wave, as well as the ability to let go and surrender to the present moment, and to move with the wave, not against it.
The connection to the natural world and the feeling of oneness with the wave can be deeply grounding and transformative, and, as they dance on the water's surface, the surfer's body and board become one.
Illustrations by Coco Steigner. Read all about how this pillar fits into our Soul of Surfing revolution, our ethos & surf lessons...and if you missed them, check out the first two articles in this series - Ocean Literacy and Blue Health.