I'm back to surfing analogies today after reading the latest issue of The Surfer's Journal and learning about the industry's fascination with new wave pioneering. In short, surfing media loves the idea of discovering a new break, especially if its in some remote area of the world. It doesn't need to be an ocean break, either. It could be a standing wave on the Amazon river, deep in the Brazilian jungle, or (as the magazine featured) a temporary break on an Alaskan bay, caused by huge chunks of ice debris falling off the side of a nearby cliff. Even if it's so dangerous and remote that one can only ride this exotic new discovery for a mere matter of seconds, the experience and the ability to say you've done it is what matters most. Capture the adventure on photo and video and you've got yourself a bit of publicity.
Again, this all sounds very familiar.
Rather than just make a really good spirit (or ride a wave really well), it seems like the modern craft industry vision today is fixated mostly on doing something so new and different that just mentioning the concept creates a buzz. Now that we've exhausted the possible permutations of barrel aged whiskies, let's apply that same formula to everything else. Within the past week I've tasted rums matured in just about every bizarre type of vessel you can think of. I've tasted gin-like concoctions with all types of wacky botanical combinations. I've tasted vodkas made from crazy base materials and flavored with wild new combinations of taste sensations. None of them were particularly memorable (or even good), just new, but....they've never been done before! Have you ever seen anyone do it like this?
No, and maybe for good reason.
There's a part in the surf story where a few indigenous Alaskan natives show up to watch the spectacle and just shake their heads in disapproval. "Someone's going to die out there," one of them says to the reporter, questioning what the point of the activity was. We're living in an age, however, where being unique is more difficult than ever, hence more valuable as a result. It's no longer about "why?" and it hasn't been for some time. The idea of being original has been so misconstrued at this point that quality seems to be an afterthought. There's only so many piercings and tattoos you can get before you just start looking like a hot mess, kids.