We Need More Surf Comedy: A Look At The Surf Pranksters Leading The Way

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“I was trying to be a pro surfer when I was young, and it was always very serious,” Cederman told me. “Everyone was trying to look cool and be cool and nobody ever let their guard down. And so I did the same. But I realized I was like, ‘Fuck this shit. ‘ Why all the testosterone and all the bad temper?” He answered her question by starting The Raglan Surf Report in 2015.

His appearance on the WSL show was a brief respite from the general seriousness that accompanies elite professional surfing events. It’s understandable; when the main narratives are based on the degree of victory and defeat, it is difficult to impose a certain levity in the procedures. It’s even harder to elicit real laughter in the fierce nature of elite sport. And take that from a man who has tried and failed many times.

It’s not just the WSL and the competitive field, although it’s a LOL-free area. Surf culture, at least represented by the media, and comedy have had an often tense, checkerboard dance. It’s more drunken uncle at a wedding than Fred Astaire (one for the kids!). If you’ve seen a Taylor Steele surf skit, watched a Big Wave awards show, or seen a surf movie, it’s usually as funny as a turd in the lineup.

“If you could color most surf movies, blue being the surf action and red being the comedy bits, that would be eight minutes of blue, one minute of red,” said the Surf Encyclopedia Warshaw. “It was the template for the surf movie – it was a sequel to endless summer – some were funny, most weren’t.

I guess that’s why Cederman’s humor is such a welcome antidote. And why such attempts, even perhaps unsuccessful, should be applauded. You may remember Matt Wilkinson, who once rode his first CT round at Snapper in 2011, still sporting the perm he did for the ASP banquet the week before?

Now retired from competition, Wilko still tries to make people laugh. Last year he released a country and western single called “Fucken Big Horse”, under the name Uncle Willy (top). The first lines say, “I’m a cowboy with the darkest soul and a fucking big horse, yeah I’m out of control.” The video showed him surfing behind a horse. A big whore, of course.

More recently, Griffin Colapinto and his team, including his brother Crosby, have taken over the professional surfer as a comedian. Griff’s skits aren’t always successful, but in a time when surfers, as Cederman says, have a hard time peeing on each other, it’s refreshing to see an unfiltered personality at least trying to make people laugh.

Australia-based Kiwi freesurfer McKenzie Bowden is another example of a talented surfer who has put his head above the comedy parapet. His parodies of surfing and surf-adjacent stereotypes have gained traction with wide audiences in and out of the surfing world. Although they sometimes touch on serious topics like race, peer pressure, and social media anxiety, they usually put a smile on your face.

Elsewhere, Insta accounts like @worldsurflols, @surfcore2001 and @thegreenroomtimes have managed to attract fans by making surfers laugh, mostly at themselves.

Of course, the gold standard of surf comedy may be Sterling Spencer. At the beginning of the last decade, Sterling Spencer through his Pinchmysalt.tvwas not only the funniest man in surfing, he was the only funny man in surfing.

After a hiatus from bigger films and health issues, he recently returned to work under his own Sterling Spencer Instagram handle. His eerie impersonations, overdubs and weird sense of humor can still create real laugh-out-loud moments, a real rarity when scrolling through surf-based social media.

His skit with American comedy legend Bob Saget, playing an old-school shaper who knew his mother, in the film Goldmight just be the best example of the surf sketch genre:

With its smutty undertones, with its penchant for the surfer-shaper relationship, and with Sterling being the butt, quite literally, of his own joke, it’s the kind of humor that surf culture needs, but that’s what it’s all about. ‘she receives too rarely.

Listen, maybe surfing isn’t meant to be funny, after all programming isn’t often a barrel of laughs. But it’s also not meant to be serious all the time. For those who try and succeed, they deserve some accessories. Without forgetting our gratitude.

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