Tips Ride The Waves Master The Art Of Surfing

Tips Ride The Waves Master The Art Of Surfing – ‘Some kids are still too scared to challenge the hierarchy’ … Cass Collier at Big Wave Africa, held at Dungeons, in 2000. Photo: Nic Bothma

Forget California blonde stereotypes. New book Afrosurf captures Africa’s overlooked surfing culture – and celebrates its heroes, who will ride colossal waves on beaches that were often forbidden

Tips Ride The Waves Master The Art Of Surfing

To ride Africa’s biggest wave, which rises to 50 feet and crashes into waters infested with great white sharks, you first need to take a boat into the choppy currents of Cape Town’s Hout Bay. Then you jump into the eddy, row madly toward the deafening roar of the breakwater, and suddenly it’s right there beneath your clutching, trembling feet: Dungeons, as this hideous colossus is called, pushing you toward the shore. “It blew our minds,” says Cass Collier, one of the first surfers to trace a line down the undulating face of this infamous wave. “We felt like babies.”

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It was the late 1990s and Collier’s parents, although born in South Africa, were of Indian descent, which meant the apartheid regime classified him as “coloured”. But in the rough, brutal surf, he says, all racial differences no longer mattered. “You have to have a clear mind and a clear conscience – and know that your fellow surfer in the water with you is your brother. If something happens, he’s the one who will help you.”

Collier, who went on to become the first non-Hawaiian surfer of color to hold a world title, is one of the stars of Afrosurf, a brilliant 300-page book that chronicles Africa’s overlooked surfing culture. Starting in South Africa – the rocking mecca of the continent – ​​Afrosurf asks a host of characters from a dozen countries what it means to be an African surfer today. Posing with boxing gloves on his board for the book’s cover, Ghana’s Sidiq Banda speaks for everyone when he describes the otherworldly appeal of surfing: “I’ve had wavy dreams… it’s like a first love thing. It’s like light blue walls and you’re flying. That’s when you get hooked, when you just have to keep going back because you’re constantly dreaming of waves.”

The book takes a whirlwind tour of the African coast, from the hollow crevasses of the Horn of Africa, to Morocco – battered by waves in winter – and Senegal’s Almadies Peninsula, a buzzing current destination with one of the world’s largest windows. Then it revolves around the “swell” of Africa towards sub-Saharan countries – Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana – that have great wave-riding potential if the right Roaring Forties storms send a wave their way. At each stop, Afrosurf delves into the culture—the music, the art, the folklore, the food, the chance to meet a hippo where the waves break—that surrounds an activity that’s as much a lifestyle as a sport.

Perhaps most importantly, the book, which is filled with evocative, splashy photos, overturns the accepted narrative that surfing began only in Hawaii and was later adopted by white Americans and Europeans, who spread it around the globe. According to Afrosurf’s entry, in the 1640s Michael Hemmersam, a German goldsmith working for the Dutch West India Company, watched children in what is now Ghana ride the waves on wooden boards. He believed, perhaps wrongly, that this was how they learned to swim – but he inadvertently created the first written account of African surfing.

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Three centuries later, American filmmaker Bruce Brown landed in Africa to film segments of the classic 1966 surf documentary “Endless Summer” in Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria. His attitude to what he saw as virgin territory hadn’t changed much from colonial times: Brown boasted of discovering “surf that had never been ridden before” – although, in his footage, you could see children of the Ga ethnic group clearly using traditional paddle boards.

Kevin Dawson, a former competitive surfer and now a University of California academic who wrote the introduction to Afrosurf, says Brown’s attitude typifies the “deliberate erasure” of this part of African culture. “Seeing the boards in Ghana didn’t fit his simple narrative,” he says, “so he just swept it under the rug.”

It’s indisputable now that the sport belongs to a much wider group of people than the blonde-haired archetype that became shorthand for “surfer,” from the Beach Boys to classic cinematographer Jeff Spicoli. And Collier was one of the first to make a breakthrough. He grew up on the tough Cape Flats and was pushed by his father to surf at the then whites-only Muizenberg Beach as an act of political defiance.

“I got through it,” he says, “but a lot of my crew didn’t want to continue surfing because of that confrontational atmosphere.” He progressed quickly, attending haunts such as Dungeons, as well as discovering and naming a left-wing wave – Madiba’s – near Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. But he was still banned from surfing in South Africa’s national events.

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The authorities finally relented, but Collier had already decided to compete abroad. His skill eventually won out. With fellow Rastafarian surfer Ian Armstrong, Collier won the 1999 World Big Wave Championship at an exhilarating spot called the Killers, a wild spot 20km off Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Encouraged and supported by his family, Collier was more prepared for success than the average black South African. Even today, although there are no official divisions, water sports are not easily accessible to people in villages, says Chemica Blouw, a coach with Waves for Change’s “surf therapy” program. “Growing up,” she says, “the beach was a visit once in a while or for a special party. We’d see surfers with blonde hair, blue eyes and white skin. It was intriguing to us, but never we thought we’d have a chance to follow it. I remember telling my grandparents when I was in high school that I was going to start surfing, and my grandpa laughed and said, ‘Oh, are you smart?'” Oh, are you white now?”)”

The growing importance of African surfing, and within it the growing inclusion of black wave riders, may finally break down persistent pockets of prejudice. Afrosurf is testament to the growing diversity on African beaches – and that includes women. We hear the story of Berbere surfer Maryam, whose determination to surf at her home beach in Tamraght in Morocco earned her a new name: “They called me Muhammad. Because I used to surf as a boy. I was really strong, I didn’t let anyone bring me down.”

But competitive surfing has yet to catch up, says Collier. He was disappointed not to see any black surfers on a recent visit to Jeffreys Bay, the Eastern Cape town that hosts the World Surfing League. Asking people if localism — the surfing practice of aggressively discouraging foreigners on vacation — was responsible, Collier was told no. He’s still trying to figure out what’s keeping black surfers away: “They’re afraid of something, I don’t know what it is. There’s still this taste in everyone’s mouth of the surf franchise. Some kids are still too scared to challenge the hierarchy.”

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Godspower Pekipuma, one of what he estimates to be 20 Nigerian surfers, has this to say about his homeland: “Most Nigerians don’t know how to swim. They say they’re taking risks – and Mami Wata, the goddess of the sea, will drown them . They don’t see its value and therapy.” Kevin Dawson has also encountered such fears, but sees a potentially fruitful side to them: “Although most people in coastal Africa are Christians, they still retain traditional beliefs. And so there seems to be a blending of Western surfing with beliefs and practices traditional African that will be really interesting to watch.”

This union can give the 21st century African surfer a unique identity, a sense of connection to the water comparable to the famous spirit of Hawaii.

. But such talk of deities is simply putting different faces and interpretations on a feeling that is universal and uplifting. As Collier says: “If one goes to the ocean and feels happy and free, then he will not be able to go out and live as a slave.” Martyn Robertson’s film follows a 14-year-old Scottish surfing champion as he prepares to tackle Ireland’s biggest waves

If anyone has come up with a more cinematic image than a matchstick-sized man riding a tsunami of a wave, I have yet to see it. And Ride the Wave’s matchmaker ratchets up the tension by being a 14-year-old boy: Ben Larg, a Scottish junior surfing champion based on the Hebridean island of Tyre. Normally, big wave surfing documentaries focus on the jaw-dropping and experienced waters, but Martyn Robertson’s film has an interesting tangible edge by focusing on Larg’s desire to tackle Aileen’s and Mullaghmore, two of the breaks cold water on the west coast of Ireland – and how his parents manage their stress levels accordingly.

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One Minute Away is a blonde hunk with more than a passing resemblance to the late Dogtowner Jay Adams, crying after dropping his heat in international competition. Half an hour into the film, he is suddenly a strange teenager who is growing up

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