Surfing’s Frontier

The early pioneers of surfing; the Polynesians who rode big, heavy, wooden boards always had the intention to make the sport spiritual rather than aggressive.  To this day, surfing has always been spiritual. It may have something to do with its natural setting. This image may appear to convey a sense of aggressiveness because of its dark aurora, but it actually conveys tranquility because the surfers position on the wave, camera shot, and natural mountain background.

This image could convey conquest at a quick glance, and then I will reason why in fact it does not. The dark clouds seem to dominate the upper half of the frame. The dark, grey, clouds imply a sense of aggression because of their color. The wave itself denotatively constructs a shape, much like a mountain.  To any none-surfer, this may convey a sense of conquer because it looks like a challenge or obstacle to overcome.  Lastly, the most obvious one: there is a lack of lighting in the photo (the sun is blocked by the clouds.)  One could notice this because of the shadow on the surfer’s head, and it reflects onto the ocean color turning it into a dark green color.  Anyone who first glances at this image may notice these aspects. The overall aurora of this image could convey aggressiveness, but I will give you the reasons why they in fact, do not.

Now, the surfer in this image is positioned at the bottom left side of the frame; he is looking upward to the crest of the wave.  This shot is powerful because it shows his gaze at the wave, ultimately anticipating his next move. I will tell you right now, that he will probably do a snap turn at the steepest part of the wave (the crest.) This overall shot of his anticipating gaze implies that he is in the moment. Riding a wave requires one to be in the moment; this is the ultimate form of tranquility for surfers.

Next, the cameras position or P.O.V. (point of view) tells a lot about this picture.  First off, I can safely assume that the cameraman was in the water when they took the photo.  The wide-angle lens shows not only great depth in the photo, (background mountains) but it makes the viewer feel like he/she is riding the wave too because the gaze appears as if you are following the surfer himself on the wave anticipating his next move. Obviously, this implies an in-the-moment sense of tranquility because surfing a wave this size requires that.

Lastly, the natural setting in this image conveys a lot about this image.  As I mentioned before, the wide-angle lens reveals some background detail in the image. You can see a range of mountains, and maybe a bit of civilization because of the homes on the beach.  Overall this conveys a sense of the wide-range frontier.  This impression of the endless frontier implies quite a bit about this image: the sport of surfing revolves around nature because it wouldn’t exist without the earth’s energy (waves.) Most surfers will go any distance along the frontier to find good waves.

The none-surfer may look at this image, and just assume that it is an eerie, aggressive-looking sport that requires a sense of conquer because of the dark shadows, clouds, and ocean. Although, this may seem like the case; if you really looked closer toward the details you could find a different meaning: I talked about how the surfer’s position on the wave connoted an in-the-moment tranquility for the viewer.  Also, the cameras perspective to make the shot conveyed a sense of reality for the viewer because it looked like you were following him on the wave. Lastly, the natural setting of the image; this includes the mountains in the background that implied nature and frontier.  To sum up all the aspects of surfing: being in the moment, the wave, and its natural setting imply a strong sense of tranquility.



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1 Response to Surfing’s Frontier

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    I really like your attention to the formal elements of the shot. You do a great job alluding to various narratives implicit in the image and explaining how and why different viewers will see different things. It made me think that one of the formal elements that opens up the possibility of this is the point of view, which you discuss. It makes me realize that to see as if you are the surfer requires more than just a view, it also requires the embodied knowledge and way of seeing that you, as someone who has surfed, possesses.

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