It’s no surprise to anyone that, for better or worse, we live in a world completely dominated by social media. Ironically, to withdraw from the ether of connectivity is to withdraw from reality. The physically printed word is virtually obsolete. Because it can’t keep up. As soon as the ink is dry on the crisp white paper the situation has evolved, leaving the paper account useful only as a historical document.
In order to push their ‘brand’ modern ‘celebrities’ are unable to escape this relentless charge of apparent progression. And as surf culture in its entirety attempts to place itself more centrally into the mainstream, pro-surfers are nurturing (and embracing) the label of ‘celebrity’. For many, success is now measured not by the number of trophies collected in the exotic locations of the WSL tour, but by the number of followers you’ve amassed on Instagram. If your followers don’t stack up, you hold no leverage. And nowadays, leverage is capable of making some pretty serious cash.
Gone are the days when our favourite surfers would briefly emerge from their shadows of obscurity, temporarily halting the pursuit of gently caressing the world’s best waves in order to warp their salt-encrusted faces into something resembling a smile, under the pretence that they were successfully marketing sunglasses. In 2017, anyone who’s anybody is an influencer. A tool for multinational conglomerates to subtly (or not) thrust shitty sweet energy drinks down your parched throat. Social media streams are literally littered with ‘influencers’ posing au natural with gadgets you never knew you needed, and probably never will. Modern celebrities are expected to grant open access to every element of their lives, the expectation is that they (often far too readily) should bare all.
As an audience it means we know, or at least think we know, what makes our favourite heroes tick. Because we witnessed what they had for breakfast. And lunch.
Enter Jamie O’Brien, one of the most gifted surfers on the planet. So talented that he doesn’t merely scrape together a measly living from plying his wave riding trade, instead he lives a rock star life, travelling the world in search of the best waves. Travelling with him are his band of merry men seemingly willing to do anything that he asks of them.
What started as a series of 10 minute webisodes largely focussing on Jamie’s extraordinary surfing, interspersed with a few scenes of larking about, has evolved into a 28 minute reality-TV-resembling extravaganza. The focus of Who is JOB has shifted. It’s evolved with the ever changing world in which it exists. Jamie (and his multimillion dollar corporate backers) realise that whilst we have huge appreciation for his immense wave riding, what we really want to watch is his him and his mates pissing about, interspersed with a few scenes of wave riding magic. In the same way that Kim Kardashian attempts to offer aspiration to those who hang on her every word, JOB has identified a similar opening in the surf world, albeit for (one would hope) a different audience. To obtain leverage, you need to be accessible, and what better way to achieve this accessibility with your audience then to have cameras document how you live your life. Such programs are designed to remove us from the dull monotony of our worthless everyday lives, transporting us, if only for an instant, to where we’d rather be. And whilst it’s easy to lament the onset of progression and accuse social media of initiating the death of modern society as we know it, ‘Who is JOB’ remains damn good fun. I just hope he never meets Ray J…
Watch JOB in its entirety here.