Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How Mainstream Is Too Mainstream?

I recently read an article on popular surfing blog, The Inertia, about legend, Miki Dori. One quote from this article really stuck out to me and inspired me to delve deeper into the topic. Author, Alexander Haro stated, “Since surfing laid its groundwork as the global phenomenon it is today, it has been thought of as a counter-culture activity. And while it seems that the professional surf industry is trying desperately to shed that image and rewrite how the masses view it, its history is unchangeable.”

Counter-culture is typically depicted in a negative way, and throughout the rest of the article, Haro praises the way surfing used to be: simple. It turns out Dori was a total punk. He had a rough life but always found an outlet through surfing. In honor of Miki Dori's life, the article is beautifully written and critiques the way surfing made its way into the mainstream.

So why is it that surfing became so mainstream? In the 50s and 60s, it was glamorized in the entertainment industry in films like Endless Summer and through music by bands like The Beach Boys. Through branding and entertainment, surfing made its way into popular culture, and it looks like it's only going further in that direction.

The consumer culture surrounding surfing absolutely contributed to its booming success in the past 30 or so years. Popular retail brands such as Billabong and Quiksilver came to be in the 60s and 70s in Australia, and then Hurley and Volcom a few years later in California. These companies grew rapidly, especially with the expansion of California-inspired retail stores like Pac Sun and Tilly’s. These stores brought surf style out of the beach cities and all over the world.

It is interesting to explore what made surfing so mainstream. Perhaps it was branding with the help of globalization and entertainment. Today, with the emphasis on social media, surfing can only be headed in a direction that will make it even more public and common.

Whether you see this as a positive or a negative for the industry, it is hard to ignore the major impact that these brands and companies have had on the sport and its surrounding lifestyle. It used to be easy to pinpoint a “surfer bum” such as Miki Dori, but with the style spreading all over the world, you could easily mistake a Minnesota boy for a “grom” (let’s not get started with the lingo). 

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