I love Kelly Slater. Not the way I love my wife or kid, but with the same fanboy love I have for the Magic-era Lakers, or Occy’s top-turn at Bells. Some EOS visitors won’t believe I feel this way about Slater after yesterday’s post, and probably nothing I say here will convince them otherwise. But those few paragraphs came from a loving place.

You want to see what a really skilled hatchet man can do to the sport, and one of its most cherished idols? Run your eyes over the fillet job Gilbert Rogin handed over 48 years ago this week in Sports Illustrated. Teenaged world champion and surfing sweetheart Joyce Hoffman is the main subject of Rogin’s “An Odd Sport and an Unusual Champion,” which gets its superior East Coast smirk on halfway through the first paragraph and never lets up. Hoffman is a “hot-dogger,” Rogin tells us. “In place of the largely neurotic thrills sought by the big-wave riders, hot-doggers indulge in stunts, such as hanging ten. ‘Kalabunga!” as someone always yells, obscurely, in the surfing movies.”

Droll, what? Rogin digs his pale elbows in like that throughout the piece. What he really loves to do, though, is simply put Hoffman front and center to prattle, with extended quotes that are either cruelly unedited, or (as Hoffman later claimed) pulled out of thin air. After sister Dibby Hoffman tells Gilbert that Joyce’s nickname is Jolly Green Giant, Joyce defends herself. “I’m taller than the other girl surfers. Not fatter. Most are real heavyset. I don’t want to be an Amazon. I like to be skinny. If I get any bigger I’ll die. Do I diet? Oh boy!”

This mocking she-said-it-I-didn’t trick is played for all its worth. “I analyze my surfing,” Hoffman says. Or maybe says. “The other girls don’t. They’re really dummies. The better you get, the harder you have to push yourself. I think I’m going to have an ulcer. You wouldn’t enjoy surfing if you did it like I do, but I do. If I didn’t think I was considered the best I’d quit.”
At the end of the piece, Rogin guides Hoffman to the edge of a cliff and gives her a shove. “It really kills me to see beginners wasting a wave, not getting anything out of it,” Hoffman says. “If we ever had to move inland I’d run away. I wouldn’t want to be one of those inland jerks.” Done. Print. You can almost see Rogin pursing his lips and dusting his hands off as he steps away from his Selectric.

Sure, Hoffman was a competitive, privileged, slightly mouthy teenager—like just about every other Southern California surfer in 1965. What a journalistic coup for Rogin to make her and the sport look stupid.

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