In Search of Gay Surfers
BY Dennis Hensley
February 25 2008 12:00 AM ET
When L.A.-based entrepreneur Eric Mueller started surfing in the late 1990s, he found a far more welcoming scene. "I hung out with this straight guy who had a girlfriend, yet he'd always be like, 'I really want to make out with you,'" says Mueller, laughing at the memory. "He was the epitome of the surfer types I would meet, just very laid-back guys who didn’t subscribe to all the rules of society, including the ones that say guys aren’t supposed to make out with other guys."
New York theater producer Rob Ahrens's experience is somewhere between the two. "When I started in '98, a friend and I used to joke that we were the only two gay surfers in the world," recalls Ahrens, who actually came up with the life-changing idea to turn Xanadu into a Broadway musical while on a surfing trip to El Salvador in 2001. "Now, it seems like the sport is broadening. When I go out and it comes up, it’s pretty much a nonissue."
If there's hope for an out and proud future for gay men in surfing, it's personified by Dan Abrams, a financial analyst in Los Angeles who started a Yahoo group for gay surfers several years back that has since grown into a gang of around 20 or so gay and gay-friendly surfers. "It became like this really cool little family," says Abrams, an Army veteran and former USC rugby player, "and we've never experienced any homophobia in the water whatsoever. We openly talk about guys in the water and I’ve never really gotten anything more than just a surprised second look."
Abrams would love it if his group helped inspire other gay men to hop on board. "Sometimes, I think we worry so much about homophobia that it keeps us from doing things that we're interested in," says Abrams. "Maybe if people knew there were other (gay) people doing this, it might give them hope or a network of people to go do this with." Would he work with a beginner, like say a journalist who may be a little on the Fairy Mary side? "We give free surf lessons to anyone who's interested," he promises. "I can honestly say that surfing has changed my life. When you catch that wave, it’s like riding a roller coaster, only you’re the track and you’re the car and it’s all you."
And, let's face it; it's pretty sexy too. "When I’m out at a bar and someone’s like, 'What are your hobbies?' and I say surfing, their eyes perk up," says Abrams. "I have a surfboard in my apartment," adds Ahrens, "and I said to a friend who’s very stylish, 'I should probably get that out of here. It doesn’t look proper,' and he said, 'Oh, no no no, keep it there. That’s going to get you laid.'"