A year ago in this space I drew a word picture of how Charles Darwin might have explained modern man’s natural adaptation to the emerging sport of Stand Up Paddling. Today I’m bringing his imaginary description up-to-date by way of two examples of magazines articles that take advantage of modern high speed photography to illustrate the technique, artistry and joy of this emerging sport and the one that preceded it -- windsurfing. Hence the title, even though 35 mm is not necessarily the frame size of choice for digital exposure. With that explanation, let me begin.
Somewhat more than 30 years ago, North America began partial repayment of the debt owed Europe for their exportation (and profit) from skiing, tennis and several other individual sports. One repayment was derived from a native Hawaiian pastime named windsurfing by its California inventors. Across the Atlantic a young journalist, skiier and, later bicyclist from Munich, Germany, Uli Stanciu, recognized the potential and created what still today is the international standard for a windsurfing magazine SURF. He pioneered a mixture of equipment, technique, interviews and sailing destinations. He did this as a skilled journalist using the argot that developed around the sport and with the liberal use of 35 mm to teach as much as illustrate the romance of the sport. In that sense, the 35 mm format in Uli’s hands became what Darwin would have used had he landed on the Galapagos and found them teaming with windsurfers.
Fast-forward 30 years and back to Southern California. Another young journalist that cut his teeth at the birth of windsurfing Clay Feeter was among the first to see where SUP was going. His skills at telling a story with photography, sometimes with only one shot, were always superb. But now he has chosen a premium paper high definition format to display the art of highly skilled photographers and stand-up paddlers. To me, the insight provided of the interaction between the water, the wave, the board, the paddle and the paddler is breath-taking. There is both beauty and instruction. And, unless I miss my guess, this is the pathway for the expansion of the discipline. Wind surfing and its cousin kite boarding are dramatic as can be, but the span and variety of water and wave and the creativity of the paddler will likely move SUP to the top of that species, in line with Darwin’s principles. Clay’s continuing chronicle and no doubt others, writ large in 35 mm, will make certain it does.