BEHIND THE PHOTO - "PRISM"

September 8, 2015

Prism – an ocean wave refracts light, separating its contents into a rainbow. A sense of bliss enters my mind when I see this photo. Behind the soft, colored lens flares, you can see the sea’s surface: a diagonal wave bends upwards as it nears the shallow reef ahead. There is no place I’d rather be than in the ocean, surrounded by breakers and their silent thunder.

 

However, if I told you that only the quiet sea surrounded me in this image, I would be telling a deception, a distortion, and a dishonesty.  While it was a soft stunning location under the surface, above the water was a rat race. It was a mess. Imagine over one hundred, wave-hungry testosterone filled men fighting to be in the same place at the same time – surfing. This was the context behind this capture taken in Bali, Indonesia.

           

How did such a magnificent, secluded surf break get so crowded? While there are many factors, one comes straight to my mind in this digital world we live in: social media. In the old days, surfers had two options: discover new waves via exploration or word of mouth from a friend. Today, you can see the latest discovery on your best friend’s Instagram or Surfline’s ‘photo of the day.' In other words, you can hear the entire Internet’s mouth, shouting out the newest exotic location and the exact conditions that create the best surf.

           

While I love social media for this reason, I also despise it. Let me explain it for you non-surfers. You see surf breaks are typically public locations. Remember what happens to a public resource if there are no barriers to entry? Tragedy of the Commons. When every single surfer on the planet shares his or her latest surf location, every single surfer discovers it exists and goes there. Then, the location reaches its carrying capacity, and surfers are hostile just to get one wave, ultimately defeating the purpose of surfing. Thus, I will not reveal the exact location of this photo (although I am guilty of it in th past). It is called #SpotX, as they all should be. So before you share the geographical location of your next wave on Facebook, think about the alternative tag: #SpotX. 

 

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