“Race & Surfing”, narrated by Selema Masekela, re-examines the origins of surfing

There are many stories in surfing. Some have been told to satiety. Some said nothing at all. And somewhere in the middle are the stories that have been told – but haven’t been told enough. That’s why Red Bull Media House has produced a five-part series called In full view.

The first and perhaps the most important of the series was released recently under the title Running & Surfing. It explores the history of the origins of surfing and how it evolved into what it is today. Selema Masekela narrates the illustrated short as it traces the course of surfing from Ghana in the 1600s to Captain Cook’s logbook entry in 1779, to Southern California in the 1970s.

“Twenty or 30 natives each taking a long, narrow board, rounded at the ends, starting together from the shore,” Cook wrote in one of the earliest written descriptions of the surf; and Selema’s distinctive voice recites. “The coast being guarded by a chain of rocks, they are obliged to block their board or leave it before reaching the rocks.”

The film goes on to explain how important surfing was to Hawaiian culture, with royalty and commoners riding the waves. Cook’s arrival, however, put a damper on things. Hawaiians were banned from surfing and turned into colonial subjects, forced to work instead. Christian missionaries then found their way to the islands, cracking down more harshly on Hawaiian traditions. Yet the natives slipped away to continue riding the waves.

Over the years, however, surfing could not be eradicated. Jack London wrote about it after the success of call of the wild allowed him to build a boat called the Snark. He and his wife sailed to Hawaii, and he shared his first sight of a surfer in Waikiki. “He is Mercury,” wrote London. “A brown Mercury. Its heels are winged, and in them is the speed of the sea.

Although London played a small role in bringing surfing to a wider audience – and Cook arguably played a big part in trying to crush it – no one kicked the ball that started surfing to his place in the world today stronger than Duke Kahanamoku. When the Duke was born in 1890, Hawaii was still an independent nation. When he was a child, the Queen of Hawaii was overthrown in a hostile takeover that remains controversial to this day. He rose to fame in 1912, when he competed for the United States at the Stockholm Olympics, a time when non-white athletes were mostly banned from competing at elite professional levels. Duke has been an integral part of spreading surfing and the Aloha spirit around the world. By the 1950s surfing had arrived in California and the age of gadgets was upon us.

Malibu became the epicenter of surfing – but it was still an isolated place. In fact, all but two of the Southern California beaches were segregated. “For most black Americans,” says Selema, “surfing was just out of reach.” But like most walls, only one brick had to fall – and that brick was Nick Gabaldon.

In 2014, inertia teamed up with Nike to make a movie titled 12 Miles North: The Nick Gabaldon Story. Gabaldon learned to surf at an informally secluded beach called “The Inkwell” in Santa Monica in the 1940s and regularly paddled 12 miles north to ride Malibu, one of California’s best waves. In doing so, Gabaldon defied convention in an America that had institutionally barred many black people from ocean access.

Slowly the wall began to crumble. Selema recounts how a few decades later, a man named Tony Corley wrote a letter to SURFER magazine. In it, he called on “his black surfer brethren to stand up and come forward.” Corley then founded the Black Surfing Association in 1975.

“I have many white surfer friends whom I cherish deeply,” Corley wrote on inertia in 2014. “Despite this, I sought out other black surfers out of a desire for a deeper sense of belonging within a culture that didn’t always accept people of my skin color.”

The fight for equality continues. The first article ever published on inertia in 2010 was actually a call to welcome a diversity of viewpoints, after the same article was deleted by SURFER magazine under pressure from advertisers. At the time, the surf media routinely flirted with bigoted rhetoric and imagery, including Nazi images like swastikas in magazines and on surfboards. Since then, Selema Masekela has spoken candidly to us about her experiences with racism in surfing on several occasions.

Now, in 2022, many organizations are dedicated to inclusiveness in surfing. Running & Surfingis in partnership with 1 planet one people, a collective activation that supports climate action and racial and social equality. In honor of Black History Month, its release coincides with the launch of a surfboard raffle that will support a range of non-profit organizations.

Editor’s note: Founding members of 1 Planet One People include Selema Masekela, Danielle Black Lyons, Hunter Jones and Ryan Harris. Everyone has created a unique surfboard with Earth Technologies and cast them at random. Proceeds went to Vote the Ocean, Native like waterthe Life Rolls On Foundationand sea ​​trees.

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