Soul surfing; New book details emerging surf culture in Africa | Life

Surfing has always fascinated me, even from a young age. An odd interest perhaps given that I was born and raised in Fort Worth, barely the hang-of-ten mecca. Aside from a few pretty pitiful – though still a lot of fun – attempts when I was a kid on a family summer vacation in California, my at best tenuous connection to surf culture is a lot of love for the Beach Boys. , more views of “Gidget” and the Cheesy Beach from Frankie and Annette movies than I should admit and, of course, Bruce Brown’s classic 1966 surf documentary, “The Endless Summer”.

I enjoyed reading Jack London’s 1913 novel “John Barleycorn” for many reasons, but one of them is the introduction, which describes London, teeming with money from royalties from “Call of the Wild “, sailing to Hawaii in 1907 where he encountered surfing for the first time and the thrill of the” speed of the sea “. Always adventurous, London immediately set out to join the surfers and challenge the waves and went on to write an essay titled “A Royal Sport,” which is widely credited with catching the attention of Americans on the continent. A more recent vintage is William Finnegan’s “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life”, a Pulitzer Prize winning ode to the joys of surfing the waves.

My attraction to the sport, although as a spectator, stems, I think, from the pristine nature of the ocean coupled with the promise of each wave of unlimited possibilities and freedom. The surf offers a perfectly balanced intoxicating mix of gravity and death-defying danger and ballet grace, an athletic equivalent to watching Jimi Hendrix play guitar. It is also undoubtedly the ultimate sport between man and nature. Then again, maybe I’m digging it because it’s so cool.

In the wake of surfing’s debut at the next Olympic Games, “Afro Surf”, a lush 300-page book chronicling the hitherto largely ignored African surfing culture.

The photos alone justify the $ 40 price tag for the book. The images amaze and immerse the reader in the action.

The book not only strives to celebrate African surfing and related cultures, but also to dispel several myths and misconceptions.

Main among those who dispute the long-held claim that Polynesians developed surfing and that the sport’s first written account dates back to 1778 in Hawaii. The earliest known surf story, Afro Surf meters, actually dates back to 1640 in what is now Ghana. The practice, however, dates back over 1,000 years in Africa, according to the book.

Surfing, while ancient in Africa, is also quite nascent, at least in terms of rediscovering and spreading across the continent, not to mention spreading beyond the continent. Africa is, in other words, poised to lead the next surf explosion.

Contributors also challenge the idea held by much of the rest of the world that Africa is a monolithic continent rather than a combination of unique and individual countries in this regard, no different from Europe or America. . The same goes for sport.

“African surf culture is as diverse as the continent it inhabits,” writes contributor Roger Vuanza.

The authorship of the book is attributed to Selema Masekala and Mami Wata, a Cape Town surf company dedicated to spreading African surf culture. However, much of the content in the book comes from individual surfers and photographers across Africa.

“The trip that all surfers take is a beautiful metaphor for life,” writes contributor Kunyalala Ndlovu, adding, “Am I having fun?

Contributor Morabeza writes about emerging possibilities and African coasts yet to be experimented with.

“Africa is the last frontier,” writes Morabeza. “We are only scratching the surface.”

“Afro Surf” explores the euphoria, dangers and spiritual aspects of surfing as well as racism, the obstacles African women get into the sport and more. Paintbrushes with sharks, hippos and maybe mermaids are included.

The stories here are as individual as the contributors and vice versa. One telling commonality, however, is that all are more interested in passing the surfing legacy on to younger generations than in competing for personal glory.

A Kickstarter campaign funded the publication of the book with proceeds going to two African surf therapy associations, Waves for Change and Surfers Not Street Children.

Throughout the book, contributors relay the joys of catching a wave that we non-surfers can only watch and dream of.

“And when it’s good, only a surfer knows the feeling,” writes contributor Nick Njapha. “Pure excitement, hey. Pure joy. Smile non-stop from ear to ear.

Matt Smith can be contacted at [email protected]


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