An analysis of ‘Sorfing’ – When you somehow surf

Nice air revo nose pick. But no, it’s not surfing. It is “sorfing”. Photo: World Surfing League

Sorfing: (noun) 1. Kind of surfing. 2. Not quite surfing.

I looked for it. Searching for words on Google yielded many misspelled surfing links. The hashtag “sorfing” on Instagram revealed a few boogie boarders in a wave pool, paddling around, and a few tourists about to go up a sand hill on a soft top. Not quite surfing. The dictionary didn’t list anything, so I’m officially adding this word to the American lexicon.

Coincidentally, I saw a friend’s Facebook post about a talk she gave for surfers’ opinions on a wave pool proposal in Virginia Beach. Her research (she has a doctorate in tourism and is an expert on surf tourism and how it affects cultures in particular) showed that many surfers had positive opinions of the project. And I thought, what was my opinion? Surfing in a wave pool is “sorfing”, a kind of surfing. Why doesn’t it count as surfing?

Another example of “sorfing” is when someone brings the boat back to the top of Chicama. I was there. It sucked for me because I chose to paddle instead and go 500+ yards to the point, or beyond. Sometimes I got lucky and caught a window of flatness between sets and other times I got crushed by sets. But the boats spewed gasoline fumes and chopped the groomed sets offshore, and dropped surfers right in front of where I had paddled. Four boats, up to six surfers each and there was only heads up on the flats so no really terrible rip current.

A third example is when someone is pushed into a wave. The person who pushes the rider is the one who knows if the wave is good. Without their help, the rider would not have caught the wave. I was in Lombok on a deep water reef break (Gerupuk) and the sets were 1-2ft overhead. In a line of 40 surfers were four surf “instructors” pushing beginners right on the shoulder, not caring if anyone had already caught the wave outside. These newbies either had a great 100 meter run or were destroyed by a fence. The easiest part for them was that the channel was very wide so they could drift without having to dive once. It’s sorfing.

For me, surfing is a solitary sport where one person is responsible for finding the right wave, paddling it and surfing it without assistance. No artificial waves, no boats, no monitors. An exception to the solo part would be tandem surfing which can be included in the “surfing” category. The word “tandem” explicitly defines the type of surfing it is. Like kite surfing, it’s good because the word “kite” explains what type of surfing it is. SUP surfing is another example. They use a SUP to surf. Yes, they use a paddle, so it’s kind of surfing, but the P in SUP explains it, so that’s fine.

But if you bring the boat back to the top, it’s sorfing. If you catch waves in a wave pool, that’s sorfing. If you get pushed into the waves, that’s sorfing. Sandboarding – no, not surfing. Wakeboard behind a boat – definitely not. If you use an inflatable sail while hurtling down several peaks on a foil, that’s pretty cool, but that’s not surfing, that’s sorfing. If you’re on a board in the ocean using your own arms to steer towards the line, pick up a wave and catch it, and stand up, even for two seconds, that’s surfing.

Now don’t get me started on “sunfing”. It’s a sport for the future (surfing solar or other cosmic waves in space – first theorized by Dr Timothy Leary in his interview with Steve Pezman for SURFER magazine in 1978), and the subject of a future hike.

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