Here’s some food for thought as we drop-in towards Christmas and it concerns the idea of the waterman or woman; and it’s a complicated concept, so follow carefully. Basically there is the idea you cannot be a waterman if you do not surf as if surfing is the only watersport that counts,

A waterman, in any other frame of reference, is a contemporary, idiosyncratic concept, manifested from a sub-culture of hero worshipping groupies, who make clear, a waterman in their frame of reference, cannot call themselves a waterman, being as the title may not be self appointed.

Ultimately, it is bestowed upon the deemed-worthy, by lesser wannabe waterman or sentiments to this effect. What makes them qualified to pass judgement is dubious if their frame of reference is only surfing, which makes them a surfer of course, but not a waterman by defaultOf course a waterman could validate another waterman, but could never him or herself, self elect. It’s a tricky process as you can imagine given this caveat.

This being the case, let us address the elephant in the room, that of surfing. The historical perspective of surfing is as much about hype, ego and consumerism as it is anything else, to which end according to those who surf, if you don’t, you could never a waterman make?

This is of course news to those ancient and not so ancient cultures who have relied upon the ocean for all manner of existence, whether on it, in it or under it, which immediately tells us that the entire premise of the waterman is of course a contemporary manifestation of someone who has failed to acknowledge the existence of mankind’s relationship with the ocean before the advent of contemporary surfing. Their is some hope however.


“That surfing stems from a nautically-based culture with a legend-filled history of outstanding waterman is undeniable. The first surfers were waterman who initially became noted for their finesse with outrigger and double hulled canoes before taking to mere slabs of wood. Very possibly, these island fishermen first envisioned a more recreational use for waves when they used them as the fastest means for getting their canoes over the coral reefs and on to the beach with their catch. At some undefined stage, catching waves developed from being part of the everyday working skill of the fisherman to being a sport. Instead of work it became play. This change revolutionized surfing.” NorthEast Surfing 2017

There’s some clarity in this, but erroneous to call it a sport when in fact it was a recreational pastime. Canoe racing was indeed an ancient sport practiced in Samoa, Tonga and elsewhere in various ancient Island Kingdoms and betting was common. It was left to Europeans to morph surfing into a sport, into competition, commercialism and consumerism.

Ironic is it not, how far the fruit has fallen from the tree, so that today surfers and most all factions of its narcissistic community, want to turn this around, so as contemporary exponents of the art of outrigger canoeing in all its forms, including canoe sailing and surfing, a skill often required to negotiate safe passage back to shore, are NOT waterman without the prerequisite of being able to surf to elite level, which from an evolutionary perspective aims to turn history on its head? This is nothing short of a collision of arrogance meets ignorance.