Waves of Warning: Is Modern Surfing a Business,
a Contact Sport, or a Religion?

Glenn Hening

Legend has it Aristotle was so distraught about not solving the question of where waves come from he threw himself into the sea in despair. Now, two thousand years later, we know a lot about the storms and winds that make waves, but how much do we know about the sport the waves have made, surfing, as it is evolving in modern times? Is it nothing more than a great way to make money by investing in the huge corporations at the top of the surf industry? What about surfing as a dog-eat-dog world of addicts getting every wave they can and then still wanting more? Or the relentless nostalgia that for others has turned surfing into some kind of religion, complete with shrines to their heroes and rooms full of relics?

He’s been called “a provocateur asking the hard questions” by the premier surfing magazine (The Surfers Journal), and in an eye-opening and incisive presentation by a man whose surfing credentials are unparalleled both in and out of the water, Glenn Hening takes a look at modern surfing from perspectives that are not often brought out into the open for real discussion. In his recent Regents Lecture at Campbell Hall, Glenn trades on the energy of a veteran surfer to make some waves of both analysis and warning about surfing as a business, a contact sport, and a religion–in contrast to a new and exciting appraisal of surfing as evidenced by some surprising facts and intriguing personalties.

Glenn Hening’s credentials are unique in the world of modern surfing. For over twenty years, he’s established a reputation for “asking the hard questions” according to surfing’s premier magazine, The Surfers Journal. Glenn’s first notable accomplishments as a surfer included winning contests both individually and with the UCLA surf team in the early 70s. He became a high school history teacher and taught (and surfed!) in Central America for five years. After his return to California he developed a second career in computer programming. But his dedication to surfing never wavered, and in 1984, while working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL-Caltech/NASA), he founded the Surfrider Foundation, leading a small team of visionary surfers who established the concepts behind surfing’s largest environmental organization.

In 1997 he co-founded the Groundswell Society to address broader issues affecting modern surfers both in and out of the water through scholarship programs and the Society’s annual Surfing Arts, Science and Issues Conferences. Over the years he has delivered speeches and lectures to a wide variety of audiences on such topics as the surf industry, the environmental movement in surfing, surfboard design, and the origins of surfing in ancient Pre-Incan cultures. In 2002 he led an expedition to archaeological sites in Northern Peru built by the first ’surfriders’ over a thousand years ago. In 2003 he was invited to visit the Lau Group in Fiji, islands which are normally off-limits to non-Fijians. He has been profiled and/or interviewed in Readers Digest, the Los Angeles Times, all the major surfing magazines, and over two dozen newspapers and periodicals.

Throughout his unique career Glenn has remained a dedicated and talented surfer while riding some of the world’s best waves throughout California, Hawai`i, Australia, Peru, Polynesia, and Central America. At an age when many surfers are starting to take it easy, he still rides high performance surfboards and can be found checking the surf every day at dawn across the street from his home at Oxnard Shores, California..

Recording Date & Length: 1-22-06 • 1 Hour 24 Minutes 30 Seconds