Words: Elisa Routa | Photos: Bethany Mollenkof
“I surf because my ancestors were not allowed to.”
While the world has shifted its gaze to the Black Lives Matter Movement with protests spontaneously taking place around the globe, sparked by the loss of black lives, the issue of racism and police brutality is nothing new. However, the global reaction in response to the violence is spreading one universal message: race does not exist, there is one species and a change is gonna come.
“This short film is inspired by African American beach culture and rewrites the narrative of this age through the lens of filmmaker Bethany Mollenkof. Illuminating style and grace of Black beach culture and the art of wave riding.”
What is the face of the change in surfing today? We have our own ideas on the subject.
Textured Waves, the female surf collective fighting for diversity and equality in surfing is definitely one of them. “[The] African American female surf collective was created to propagate the culture and sport of women’s surfing towards women of color and underrepresented demographics through representation, community and sisterly camaraderie; A reimagining of our history with the coastline and the sea” the crew explains with a common voice. “We value integrity, inclusion and advocating diversity in the water.”
“Despite history we can create pathways for what we want to see for ourselves, now and in the future.”
“Our melanin has always called us to the ocean, yet stepping on a beach was (and continues to be) seen as an act of rebellion. We do it anyway, not in rebellion – but in celebration.”
The short film Sea Us Now, released on June 16, emerges in response to the lack of media representations of African American surfers. The film, seen through the lens of African American filmmaker Bethany Mollenkof was created in collaboration with the swimwear brand Seea. The film aims at serving “as an inspirational piece to future generations” claiming that “despite history we can create pathways for what we want to see for ourselves, now and in the future.”
The future is now. During the recent paddle-out ceremony organized in Encinitas, California, honoring George Floyd’s life, commentator, journalist, musician, and producer Sal Masekela delivered a breathtaking speech reminding us all that “historically, the surfing community has not been the most diverse and has been slow at best to accepting the rapidly changing demographics of its landscape.” The women united behind Textured Waves highlight the racial stereotypes existing in action sports, shaping attitudes toward African-Americans: “The demographics of surf culture were undoubtedly influenced by what was happening politically and economically in this country. Segregated beaches and swimming pools contribute to the lack of diversity we see in the lineup today. “ Although Masekela remembers that kids at his school told him black people couldn’t swim, over the years he became the face and voice of surfing to the world. The future is now, we said. And it looks brighter than ever. Witnessing the energy brought by the surfing community that day, Masekela added: “In these dark and horrific times where we are forced to fight with all we have to eradicate this cancer of racism from the American psyche, we were met by a slice of the surfing community deeply committed to participating in this fight by our sides as true allies. It was beautiful. It gives me hope for what else is possible.”
More than a message of hope, Martina Duran, one of Textured Waves co-founders, gives us a positive message of change: “I surf because my ancestors were not allowed to, I surf because the door is beginning to open up for me, I surf because it is time to invite others in.” Beyond the desire to free herself from invisible chains and handcuffs, yet still existing in our society, Martina answers to the instinctive call of the ocean. “Our melanin has always called us to the ocean, yet stepping on a beach was (and continues to be) seen as an act of rebellion. We do it anyway, not in rebellion – but in celebration.” Again, race does not exist. There is one species and a change is gonna come. Yes, the future is now and we are a part of it. Are you?