Culture of surfing in Africa celebrated for the first time, Newsline

“GLOBAL surf culture is dominated by the old blonde hair and blue-eyed narrative. Africa has a unique history of wave riding; its own diverse and original expressions of indigenous surf culture. Africa’s surf story needs to be told.”

South African-based international surf brand Mami Wata is creating an art book to celebrate and encapsulate the rich history and culture of surfing in Africa for the first time. American TV presenter and co-founder of Mami Wata, Selema Masekela, said African surf culture was emerging onto the global stage and the world was taking note.

“It’s the first-ever book that will document the entirety of African surf culture – a book that I believe will redefine and expand how the world looks at and defines surf culture,” Masekela said.

“It’s going to be curated by the greatest writers and photographers around the continent and aims to showcase all the different layers of unique aspects of style, tradition and African culture.”

The book is called Afrosurf and will feature 300 pages of spectacular photography, surfer profiles from around the continent, articles about the history and development of African surfing, as well as lifestyle and design that surrounds surf communities across 18 African countries.

“People build their whole structure and existence around this pursuit of riding waves. It bleeds into where you live, how you work, how you dress,” said Andy Davis, publisher of ZigZag surf magazine and Mami Wata co-founder.

“We always thought that it would be great to do a book on the unseen length and breadth of African surf culture. When the pandemic hit, we were all sent home, and we thought it’s the perfect time.”

The team set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund the book’s production. At its close this week, the fundraiser had raised R1.8 million – 270% of its target amount.

Davis said there was clearly a global audience hungry to experience and support African surf culture.

“I’ve grown up as a surfer in South Africa. In my travels around the African continent, I’ve seen the way we surf and the approach to surfing in Africa is unique,” he said.

Far from being an import from Western nations, surfing has developed in various forms along the continent’s vast coastline.

“Without a doubt, surfing is an indigenous thing, it didn’t get here via the Beach Boys and California,” Davis said.

“In Madagascar, the kids take the floor boards out of their parents’ canoes and ride them standing up. Anywhere that there’s a big fishing community and people are comfortable in the water, they’ve figured out that riding waves is fun and a great way to spend your time.”

Contrary to what most people would expect, the earliest historical accounts of surfing don’t come from Hawaii or Polynesia, but from West Africa. The history of surfing in Africa is fleshed out in the book by American scholar Kevin Dawson, who contributed an article based on his research.

“The modern surf cultures currently developing along Africa’s long shoreline are not something new and introduced; they are a rebirth; the remembering and re imagining of 1 000-year-old traditions,” Dawson wrote.

“The first known account of surfing was written during the 1640s in what is now Ghana. Surfing was independently developed from Senegal to Angola.

“It’s hella refreshing to be able to tell that story,” he said. “It’s a fantastic uncovered history.”

The future of surf culture and surf tourism is bright, as the positioning of the African continent in relation to Antarctica gives much of its coastline fantastic conditions for surfing, he said.

Profits made will be used to support surf therapy projects Waves for Change and Surfers Not Street Children.

To find out more or preorder a copy, see mamiwatasurf.com