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The Seven Levels of Surfers

A Spiritual and Satirical Guide adopted to surfing
by Thomas Mitchell. You can read this on his site.

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read the sevel levels of artists here

Soul Surfer - Level 7

This is the highest level, the pinnacle of surfing spirituality equivalent to Nirvana, Satori, Total Enlightenment, etc. and is rarely attained. The Soul Surfer expresses himself through his unity with the breaking wave. He borrows the wave's spirit for a short while and uses his body and equipment to translate the essence of the wave's spirit into Art. Other Surfers respond to this and immediately recognize the Soul Surfer whether they admit it or not.

The Soul Surfer is a complete master of his tools, body and board. The Soul Surfer may train his body and practice with his board when not creating his Art, however, when he becomes one with the wave, his body and board are extensions of his mind. No conscious thought is expended upon the surfing techniques he uses to express the spirit of the wave with casual virtuosity. To make a musical analogy, a guitarist may woodshed his scales, but when he's jamming he's not even thinking about fingerings. He's lost in the passion of the moment. Just like a Photographic Artist who may have several cameras and many lenses, the Soul Surfer could have a quiver of a dozen boards each with a different purpose. Likewise, other Soul Surfers may have only one board, or none at all.

Soul Surfers sometimes dress strangely and say things that make seem to make sense but you have no idea what they mean. Soul Surfers often rise from sleep very early to create their Art in private. Few people witness the Art of a true Soul Surfer since they do not think to promote themselves. Many do not even realize they have attained the highest level of surfing spirituality or appreciate their tremendous skill as they are beyond the need for any sort of evaluation. Those that do become conscious of their own expertise often regress to the lower level of Whore which sadly and paradoxically means you will almost never see the Art of a Soul Surfer unless you know one personally or are lucky enough to be at the right break at the right time.

Soul Surfers use any sort of surfing equipment: longboard, shortboard or no board at all. They use whatever tool their Art requires to express the spirit of the wave and are constantly evolving in their ongoing exploration of the wave-human unity. Soul Surfers are the human embodiment of Stoke.

Whore - Level 6

A Whore is a Soul Surfer who sold their soul by accepting money, drugs, sex, etc in compensation for their Art. The worst form is the Media Whore who sells his soul for fame and fortune by posing for sponsor photographs in advertisements run in surfing magazines. By lowering himself to this level his vision and ability to become one with the wave is compromised. Why? Because when one depends on selling one's soul to pay for one's food and pad, one does not screw with the program. This means one does not try new things due to the risk. If a Whore's work pays his bills after years of trying, it's unlikely any such Whore will be open to experimentation while he still needs the dough.

Media Whores with sponsors (meaning they are represented by a commercial entity such as a clothing manufacturer just as Pimps do in the sex trade) may lose their sponsor's support if they change their style. This means they will lose their money, cool pad and shallow girl/boyfriends unless another pimp/sponsor steps in to fill the void. Therefore, once a Whore has successfully sold their surfing soul, they rarely return to the higher plane. Their Art, while at a high level, is static and does not grow.

Whores seem to almost always use boards made by Channel Islands Surfboards or Rusty festooned with sponsor decals. Whores had Stoke but lost it with their soul.

Amateur - Level 5

The Amateur is also simply known as a Surfer. The discussion of the Amateur or Surfer must begin with a digression. Every person with a surfboard who paddles out into the break and rides a wave is NOT a Surfer. This is obvious to those who have attained this level of surfing spirituality. If this is not obvious to you, you are not a Surfer.

The Amateur does not earn the major portion of their income from surfing. This level has nothing to do with their skill level or the technical quality of their surfing. This person loves to surf for its own sake; the simple pleasure of riding the wave is enough. Good Amateurs of pure spirit and Stoke can sometimes transcend the other levels to the effortless and egoless mastery of the Soul Surfer. People who compete in the odd local contest or have a write up in a magazine are still Amateurs. They are usually just Amateurs who surf better than the other Amateurs surrounding them and have received warranted accolades for their technical proficiency.

Amateurs run one especially serious risk - Amateurs who think that having more or better surfboards will improve their surfing and help them attain a higher level are at risk of descending to the lowest level of surfing spirituality, the QuiverBaiter. Too many Amateurs have been misled by the large surfboard manufacturers into thinking that they need new and different boards to create surfing Art. The worst of these are the manufacturers who sell 'pro-models' or 'signature-series' boards that attempt to entice the Amateur into thinking the equipment of a Professional or Whore will help them attain similar levels. Being and Amateur is a good thing; from this l evel one can rise to the level of Soul Surfer.

Amateurs almost always use boards from small custom shapers that are local to their break. Amateurs have Stoke and use it frequently.

Weekender - Level 4

The Weekender is a slightly less evolved Surfer than the Amateur but still a Surfer whether they realize it or not. They will often deny their Surferness if openly asked. This is actually the most group into which most Surfers fall. A Weekender is the guy who goes to the beach to surf on weekends or his odd vacations days but may not put the highest priority on making time for surfing compared to other pursuits such as family, work or some other Art. The Weekender will take his kids to the break to teach them to appreciate the beauty of the ocean as well as watermanship, how to surf and especially how to not act like a kook.

Weekenders who are artists in other mediums and are also physically fit often create beautiful Art while riding a wave that impress all knowledgeable viewers. These special Weekenders are really Soul Surfers and they don't even realize it! They usually dress better and speak more lucidly than the Soul Surfers who only think they are Soul Surfers when they are really Whores. They are usually nicer too.

Weekenders use any old board, mat or sponge but many ride longboards. If they surf a board, it's usually an off the rack model like the McTavish Original that needs to have several dings repaired. Weekenders have Stoke but sometimes don't get to show it as often as they would like.

Professional - Level 3

A Professional is a Surfer who earns his living and receives his motivation from participating in surfing contests. The Professional is the lowest level that can still qualify for the designation of Surfer. Many Professionals are often part-time Media Whores.

Professionals do not express the spirit of the wave through a sense of unity and movement. Professionals use their extremely high level of technical expertise to perform a series of athletic exercises across the face of a wave to be evaluated by Judges (Judges are on a negative level below the seven presented here). These exercises are used for the evaluation of the Professional's proficiency as compared to the other Professionals. By definition, this desire to be compared to and rated above fellow Surfers is egoistic and the exact antithesis of the Soul Surfer.

Occasionally, some Professionals may attain the temporary state of Soul Surfer. After all, they are usually the Surfers with skill level needed to effortlessly interface with the wave. However, this state is always on their own time and never when anyone is watching lest they be Judged. It is especially not during the filming of a surfing video regardless of how much the filmmakers want you to believe in their soulfulness. This is another reason you rarely see Soul Surfers.

Professionals use boards made by factory shapers such as Stewart, Channel Islands, Rusty, etc. If they are well known Professionals, the board may actually have been touched by the person who's name is on the logo. Professionals rarely worry about their boards since they don't pay for them, break them constantly and have several more exactly like the one that broke. They do not have the time or motivation to become attached to a specific board and they do not need to know the details behind the shape as someone else does this for them. Professionals have Stoke every now and then, I guess.

Rich Amateur - Level 2

Rich Amateurs are not really Surfers although they think and say they are. These are Amateurs who by having too much money and too little Stoke buy lots of equipment that fetters their freedom of expression and prevents unity with the wave. They usually men, usually older and are often retired due to either age or wealth.

Rich Amateurs think standing and getting down the line 3 to a wave at Swami's, SanO or any other knee-high bit of watery mush is Art. They usually spend more time driving from break to break in late model SUV's with boards on top (fin to the rear) than they do surfing. 99% of the time, Rich Amateurs ride expensive brandname longboards, usually boards like the Robert August "What I Ride."

Some Rich Amateurs easily fall to the lowest level of QuiverBaiter because they are more concerned with their equipment than they are with the act of surfing. Others go straight on to create great Art and become Soul Surfers because they don't have any equipment worries or time constraints that conflict with their surfing evolution. Oddly, few Rich Amateurs are ordinary - they either evolve and rule or simply suck.

QuiverBaiter - Level 1

Lowest level, equivalent to "Hell" in Christian mythology or having just enough Karma to be reincarnated as a cockroach in Buddhism. These men (and they are always men) have no real interest in the spirit of the wave or the soul of surfing because they have no souls. Lacking souls, they cannot express the imagination and feeling required to become one with the wave and do not have the dedication needed to evolve any further. This is why if QuiverBaiters ever do bother to surf they are clueless kooks.

Most Quiverbaiters seem to come from technical avocations like engineering, computers or the research sciences. These people worry too much about having the latest or what they consider the 'best' equipment regardless of whether it is suitable for their location or ability. They are completely oblivious to the fact so obvious to Surfers of a higher level of surfing spirituality - the board does not make the Surfer, the combination of Soul and Stoke interacting harmoniously with the Wave is what makes the Surfer.

Because they buy one board after another looking for the one that will magically transform them into Surfers, they acquire huge quivers that never see salt water. This is why they are known as QuiverBaiters. These same men often play with audio equipment, computers or automobiles. Digital cameras seem to attract a disproportionate number of Quiverbaiters for some reason. They enjoy these tools for their own sake but rarely if ever actually use them for the intended purpose like listening to music, driving fast, taking photos of things other than test charts or even surfing. Rich Amateurs who become QuiverBaiters are the guys who collect and brag about expensive wine but never bother to catch a buzz.

QuiverBaiters will talk you ear off in the parking lot. They love to discuss the intricacies of the concave in the nose of their longboard or the fins they have in their Bonzer. However, if you ever ask them to paddle out with you on a good day, they will scurry away with an impromptu lame excuse like a sore shoulder or needing run some errand for the wife/girlfriend. Do not under any circumstances deal with these people, talk to them, read their websites or especially ask their advice on board selection! I cannot emphasize this point enough. To the innocent unevolved Amateur or Weekender, they may seem like a fount of knowledge, however their sick soulless carcasses would love to drag you into their own personal surfing Hell and have your spirit mired in worrying about the quality of your board compared to some other model, rotating fins or some other arcane silliness. If you start worrying about these things, you will begin to read surfing magazines, websites and Internet message boards instead of surfing and your soul too will flee your QuiverBaiting husk of a body.

These people are easy to identify. They always have a full quiver of brand new, never used boards in several lengths on top of their dedicated surf vehicle. The boards are almost always Surftechs of some other epoxy popout that is being pimped as better/lighter/stiffer or somesuch. If their board is not a SurfTech, it's a $1,000 custom longboard that is too valuable to actually be surfed. The best thing about QuiverBaiters is that they are easy to evade. You simply have to paddle out, free your Stoke and feel the spirit of the Wave.

Author's (Thomas Mitchell's) note: Yes, this is satire and few people fall completely into any one of these levels if any. However, I do see a kernel of Truth in some of what I have written. If you are offended or angered by any of the above, consider this my "mea culpa and fuggoff" in advance so there's no need to tell me about it.

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