March Issue Outtakes: Black Ocean

posted by / Magazine / January 18, 2013

March Issue Outtakes
Illustration by Noa Emberson

Compton, California. A 17-year-old — we’ll call him Quentin — rolls west down Rosecrans Avenue toward Manhattan Beach in a ’72 Cutlass convertible. Its hydraulic lifted trunk spills out a surfboard with Pam Grier’s Afro silhouette painted on the deck. Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools (Drank)” thumps loud on the Oldsmobile sound system:

First you get a swimming pool full of liquor, then you dive in it…

As Quentin pulls into the parking lot at El Porto, he’s greeted by the usual commotion of friends and family deep in barbecue mode. Clean, overhead sets detonate in the background. Ever pleased, he cranks up the knob, lets the music blast and shakes out a fullsuit.

Oh, wait. Black people don’t surf. We don’t even swim. We play hoops and football and, if necessary, baseball. Why? Because the ocean has sharks. And f–k that. Because we’re a concrete culture. And because surf towns are too expensive, too far away, too wet, too…white.

Cut back to the Beach. The actual beach, dominated by tatted white dudes in pickups and their leather-faced girlfriends with raspy, three-day-old Cancun voices. Let’s be real — the only thing black about surfing is the wetsuits.

Years ago, I was surfing a slow-rolling left along Sunset Cliffs in San Diego.  Between sets, a woman paddled up to me and enthusiastically urged me to join the Black Surfers Association. Which was confusing, because she wasn’t black.

That made me wonder: are we in the surfing equivalent of the pre-Jackie Robinson era?  Imagine the caliber of athletes that have yet to sniff the sea. My cousin Desmond, a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, got married last summer in San Francisco. Many of his teammates were in attendance, and since I’d surfed in Pacifica the day before, I couldn’t help but imagine all of them out there with me. Sure, pro football players bear no resemblance to the average light, sinewy surfer. But so what? I’ve split peaks with Troy Polamalu before at 5-foot Pacific Beach, and he made it look as easy as anyone out there. Because that’s what great athletes do. When I close my eyes and imagine the future of surfing, I see many dark faces. But how the hell are we going to get there?

First, we need more black kids in the ocean. A Bad News Bears-style surf team flick with Cedric the Entertainer in the Walter Matthau role would help.  (OK, maybe it’d be more like Cool Runnings.)

Second, we need a black ambassador — other than Obama — to endorse surfing. And it would help to see this person actually riding waves.

I nominate Allen Iverson.

The original “A.I.” is among the most adored, marketable and freakishly gifted athletes in American history. Now retired and only 37, I’d bet that a few months straight of two-session days would make him ambassador-ready.

Third, we need to get rappers involved. The bottom line is that hip-hop combined with anything is a good match. It’s like that sugar daddy who skips through the ‘hood leaving behind a trail of money. Picture it. Hip-hop plus surf plus fashion…A perfect marriage. No prenup. No therapy. No nothing. This shit’s gonna last.

And perhaps the movement already has leaders. Frank Ocean’s “Swim Good” video — directed by Aussie surfer and surf photographer Nabil Elderkin — provides a kaleidoscope of possibilities for the future of black surfing. It’s a trademark oceanic stew of emotion: stylish and dreamy and violent and cathartic and erotic. Everything surfing should be. And all with the backdrop of waves crashing along the California coast.

But that’s just the tip. Imagine b-boys like Storyboard P turning a 9’6” into a canvas for breakdancing. Toprock…FLOAT…headspin…FREEZE! (Alex Knost, this has everything to do with you.) And the women that would come out to the beach? Give me a Sherane and a Keisha and in three weeks I’ll give you some provocative new wetsuit designs and enough bait to reel in those who might otherwise be skeptical of the ocean. Ah, the future is so bright. And so dark. Can you hear the stereo bumping?

I wave a few bottles, then I watch ‘em all flock, all the girls wanna play Baywatch, I got a swimming pool full of liquor and they dive in it…

Be on the lookout for young Quentin and his beachside family to make the transition from hypothetical to real. Look for South Los Angeles to become surf culture’s shot in the arm: the first great breeding ground for black riders. Look for an exhaustive “surf rap” Wikipedia page in about a decade. It’s only a matter of time before one of the most athletically and artistically prosperous regions in America takes advantage of a brand-new playing field.

Like the oil wells in Baldwin Hills, there’s potential bubbling beneath the surface — just east of those pretty South Bay breaks — that merely needs to be tapped into. And thousands of young kids searching for a new way to become the illest motherf–ker alive.  —Keith Reams


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  • masniffur

    Maybe lil Wayne……but most black folks I know are scared shitless of water and sharks.

  • chaser

    Why is some the text highlighted, can we stop the collage, hipster, urban mag look. Look at the surfer’s journal, it looks/reads nothing like this.

  • 805 Local

    Surfing will benefit from all types of people participating, but it doesn’t need hip hop, fashion, or any other outer influence, surfing is the influence no matter your race or style. Whoever wrote this is a kook, I’m disappointed.

  • queen x

    I have not been speechless often, but this has me just….

  • truth

    I am calling bullshit. Take your obama vote and shove it.

  • Stoopid

    Maybe African Americans aren’t too involved in the surf scene, but that’s a Eurocentric (kook) misconception that there are not any decent surfers other than the white brand folk that surfer and transworld surf (Among nearly all of the other mags) try to shove down our throats. My flying friend here proves it. As does SUP Flo Rida in his “good feeling” music video. Booooooom

  • von

    i was ashmaed to be reading this article in the grocery store today guys are kooks for writing something like this.. i hope you get kicked out of all your local breaks by everyone else who finds this offensive

  • johnny chango pg childhhod friend was a sponsered BMX racer and surfed too. My older brother’s buddy from then and there(east LA county)still surfs and lives here in San Diego county near me. I see black guys, white guys, hispanic, asin and pacific islanders surfing here in O’side all the time. WTF?

  • fair game

    world champ sunny garcia, buttoms, tony moniz, etc, kala alexander, etc etc very black ,very humans, very equals, super surfers

  • brazilian hater

    why are we trying to get more people to surf? i dont care if they are black, white, yellow, red, orange, purple, blue, green. Surfing benefits from less people surfing, big companies benefit from more people surfing

  • brazilian hater

    its funny how 95% of people who say they surf cant even do a turn. But heyyy its ok everybody lets go surfing!!! lets run into eachother!!! lets snake people!!!

  • elpelon

    Surfed with one of the first black surfers in Cali. in the early 60s in Venice /Malibu and even “TD” would say we dont need any more surfers!!!

  • Dang3rtown

    Why all the hate guys? This is obviously an issue in the surf community. Yes, you do see the occasional black surfer in the line up but the surf community in America as a whole has to be around 95% white folks. Most of the above comments sound like they could have been written on a message board from Augusta National 30 years ago. Spread the aloha, I’m sure you want your top secret SoCal break (HB Pier?) to stay uncrowded but we don’t want to be an exclusive sport. We want surfing to grow and progress toward bigger and better things.

  • Batman

    Right – what a shit article. If I was to write an article on race and surfing, I wouldn’t be writing about bullshit cliches. I would be doing my homework, trying to track down minorities that do surf and try to ascertain if they have been subject to any rascism? Is there more rascism directed to some minorities than others, if there is a problem which location is it at its worst. Have people thought of quitting due to abuse? What concrete actions can the media and the general surf population do to try to tackle racism if there is any. If it is just a case that there isn’t any issue with intolerence, then its not a race issue. Its a personal choice of each of the members of society whither they want to go surfing or not. Period. I love how this article only concerns itself with one minority. Seems to me the writer of this wank-stain of an article is really thinking “I want to write a cool article about race, but not really about race, about being cool, because black is cool, so I’ll write about that, and I’ll use every racist cliche I can think of to do so. Won’t I seem so cool!” Don’t worry about surfing staying white, Brazil is the future world powerhouse of surfing, and they are multicutural.

  • dogtownforever

    Regardless what you think of the article, theres already a kid named Stephan making what the article quotes as “SurRap” He’s new and up and coming. He’s no sublime or slightly stupid (even though their pretty dope) he’s a straight lyricist making REAL authentic hip hop and is representing US surfers. iv never heard or seen something like it. Its actually refreshing to hear! And he rips to so its not like he’s a gimmick or nothing. Check out his website http://www.SURFRAP.COM you can download his mix tape called “RHYTHM.WAVES.LIFE” and see his 1ST episode of his “A Day In The Life of SurfRap” series on his youtube channel SurfRapTV. SURFING MAGAZINE SHOULD DO AN ARTICLE ON THIS KID FOR GOD SAKE

    Im spreading the word because this shit is sick! its bout time we something original like this! This dudes going to blow up!

  • Stuart

    Hahahahha nice job :)

  • kellywithlove

    @ dogtownforever I checked out the surfer rapper your talking about….hes fucking good… and HOT!!! Thanx for putting me on to him. Iv been showing all my friends. I cant wait for him to blow up!

    SURFRAP allday!!!!!