In Defense (and Condemnation) of the Hipster
I've been looking for a way to address the hipster topic for a while now, and with the exchange between former Surfer Magazine editor Chris Mauro and Dane Reynolds, there's finally a topic that opens the door. Hereâ€™s a summary of Dane and Mauroâ€™s exchangeâ€¦
Last October, Mauro wrote "Dane Reynolds' Virulent Strain" an article describing â€œDaneophilia,â€ a fictional epidemic infecting impressionable young surfers. According to Mauro, Dane-o-Feel-ya is characterized by "languorous behavior... more commonly known as the fuck-its." Dane, after announcing his departure from the ASP World Tour, fired back with a lower case, sixteen-hundred word "Declaration of Independence," defending his decision and lashing out at Mauro referring to him as an out of touch dinosaur.
We've all seen Dane excel with abandon and crash in self-consciousness. He's been pegged as the leader of surfing's much loathed hipster movement, implicating him in many crimes against upper-middle class humanity. Mauro is not alone in his criticisms, Reynoldsâ€™ ambivalence towards fame and competition despite his hefty salary paints him as, well an overly-sensitive ingrate. And on the surface it's an easy case to make, Dane appears to have it all: money, freedom, power. So why the melancholy interviews and awkward speeches? The majority of Mauro's digs are indicative of how many feel about us 20 somethings: spoiled, out-of-touch, psudo-erudite tragedies infected with Dane-o-feel-ya. They caution that it will all end poorly. That this new hipster disease is a sinking ship. "Better to ditch the naive idealism, join the rest of society and pull our weight. Drop the act, and stop leaching the system dry with our arrogant navel pondering. This gripe is nothing new, just ask those who lived amongst the Luddites, Dadas, Beats, Hippies, and Punks. Society has always been quick to label its dissidents with labels and slurs. But the truth is, from Tom Sawyer to Holden Caulifield, we've all been, if even for a brief moment, disillusioned youths coping with the ugly side of the system that ironically supports our misgivings. But if Dane is merely another cog in history's wheel of hapless over-privlidged youths, why do we care so much about him? Surely not because of his neck beard or hand scribbled t-shirts. The fact is that behind all of this apparent BS, Dane rips. He draws lines with a surfboard that reek of a highly refined craft. Even Mauro admits that Dane's surfing is a thing of beauty. And with each session Dane is creating visceral art.
The very word artist is rooted to the Middle Age term of artisan: a person specializing in making something that directly contributes to their collective group. Ruling class aside, wealth and status have long been earned through a combination of creativity and practicality. But as technology has increasingly fragmented our once cooperative systems, the ancient human tendency to tinker for the common good has become adulterated. What used to be a simple equation is now a complex algorithm of self-promotion, marketing, overseas production and the nurturing of a "fan culture" that sustains it all.
Perhaps there is some truth to the common dig that likens stars such as actors, musicians or athletes to spoiled perma-children. For the nature of our star/fan culture is not to teach but instill idolatry that serves the sale of associated products. And this marketing of products acts as a wedge creating a perceived separation between fans and stars when in reality, the star is just another person with a job. A job which just so happens to be an incestuous relationship between business and pleasure. According to wikipedia "hipster" culture is defined namely by a preoccupation with the authentic, which is perhaps a reaction to this perverted nature of modern day consumerism.Â Maybe this is why Dane is leaving the tour, guys are buying $250 Redwing Boots and girls are dressing up like Native Americans, people everywhere are searching for something that finally feels real.Â
In his post, Mauro compares Dane with the super competitive pro surfer Adriano de Souza, postulating that Dane isnâ€™t participating with the same level of sincerity as Adriano. While Adrianoâ€™s overt passion might win heats, overlooking the value of Daneâ€™s performances of reckless abandon is to miss something important. Aside from our generation's quest for authenticity, we are attempting to detach from the fear surrounding the many problems that need fixing. Issues like environmental harm, divorce, cancer, stress, and loneliness will only be quelled by the service of adventurous minds contributing a mix of cutting-edge innovation with creative detachment, not unlike Dane's surfing. A lofty comparison I know, and it's an equally strong point that surfing alone isn't valuable enough of a contribution to warrant the wealth and status given to the top pro surfers. For certainly the fabric of our culture wouldn't unravel if competitive or free surfing disappeared tomorrow. But the pure act of surfing is a great place to start, it's an activity that takes a tremendous amount of workmanship and dedication to perfect, and those traits are building blocks towards living an inspirational life of any sort.
And herein lies Dane's new challenge, and the challenge of anyone who endeavors to make their way in the complicated socioeconomic landscape of today- it is essential that we see past the trends or anti-trends, the stoke lies in learning from people who live their lives connected to a practical reality beyond the chatter of peopleÂ bashing "hipsters" on their blogs or buying a lifestyle just to look cool. It is our job to somehow seek and relate substantial truths back to society rather just than perpetuate the self indulgence weâ€™ve grown up with. When this is achieved Chris Mauro won't have to write articles questioning our morals, the answer will be obvious and inspiring.
Editor's Note 12/29/11
Here's a follow up regarding Chris Mauro's article. Firstly, I don't back Dane in the belief that Mauro is a "dinosaur," although I am sympathetic to Dane's sentiments. The fact is that without Mauro's opinion, Dane wouldn't have written such a personal retort and we wouldn't have had the opportunity to engage in this discourse. Banter from critics whether it be Mauro, Baja locals or anyone else is just a natural human tendency to humble the alphas in their group. I read once that chimps who display the most naturally gifted abilities get attacked by the rest of the pack, ensuring the eventual leader is either a chimp who second in skill or a severely humbled alpha who will be in service of the group. The ivory tower system of stardom separates us from those natural interactions so they instead play themselves out on blogs and internet forums. Reading Mauro's post in this light, seems to reveal it as just a call for engagement with a star who ambivalence towards towards his job often leaves his fans in the dark (and it's obvious Mauro, like myself, is one of Dane's biggest fans). However, the nature of stardom is one of a peculiar isolation that's seldom explained and rarely understood. And this isolation is magnified when the star is a deep, thoughtful person like Dane. But that probably requires another post altogether, maybe it should be called why "Why Dane and Mauro Should Be Friends." Also I wanted to mention Zach Weisburg's post on this topic which came out promptly after Dane's declaration, it's a good level-headed take on the exchange and influenced this post.
Having shot this over 5 years ago during one of Dane's breakout WCT performances on Australia's Gold Coast, I've haven't known what to do with the footage. Originally it was going to be used for a 16mm film called "Corduroy," he title of which minus the "C" was obviously used for this blog years later.. Well, we thought it fitting to finally release it after Dane's announcement that he's leaving the tour. Thanks for the stoke man and good luck movin' on, we'll enjoy watching it all unfold.