A film to touch on our shared joy and momentum to diversify the culture of surfing, and the highest ideals of humanity.
But first a little history lesson, because we all need to learn before we lead...
In the U.S. today, 60% of African American children can’t swim, compared to 30% of white children. This is the legacy of stolen cultures, racial discrimination and blocked access to the ocean -- a wild space that should offer free refuge for all.
In the U.S., governmental policy and institutionalized racism meant brown and black skinned folks were excluded from the booming aquatic culture during the first half of the 20th century – when surfing, swimming and scuba all went mainstream. Swim schools opened en masse, The Beach Boys were proselytising, cheesy surf flicks like Beach Blanket Bingo were all the rage. But Jim Crow laws enforced racial segregation “of schools, parks, libraries, drinking fountains, restrooms, buses, trains, restaurants,” pools and beaches, as recalled by PBS’s American Experience. Thus, in addition to widespread socioeconomic disadvantage post-slavery and during segregation, African Americans and other people of color were denied access to the ocean.
Long before the American South’s racial apartheid, there were African surfers. Pre-European invasion, and before more than 11 million Africans were stolen and shipped to the U.S. as slaves, the West Coast of Africa was home to a rich ocean culture of skilled fisherfolk, sea farers and littoral dwellers. The first written documentation of surfing in Ghana was penned in the 1830s, when Scottish traveller/ soldier James Edward Alexander noted:
“From the beach, meanwhile, might be seen boys swimming into the sea, with light boards under their stomachs. They waited for a surf; and then came rolling in like a cloud on the top of it.”
This legacy of waterpeople of color was largely forgotten, but not lost. The women of Textured Waves have arrived on digital platforms and line-ups around the U.S. to interject color back into the spectrum of surfing’s representations.
In their words, “Textured Waves is an online platform designed by four surfer friends, who are women of color (WOC), to serve underrepresented demographics and normalize diversity in the surf world.”
“There are still no professional African Americans on the WSL from the mainland, and it’s important that we analyze what those barriers might be. Lack of representation and feelings of otherness can make it hard to enter surf culture. Surfing professionally still requires somewhat of a leisurely lifestyle, and if you aren’t financially able to afford being on tour then that makes it difficult. Lack of sponsorship to infiltrate and influence change in the mainstream surf industry, nepotism and fraternization in the sponsorship process,” have all created barriers to access for women of color, and many others.
The women of Textured Waves concur that everyone can contribute to nurturing a more diverse culture of surfing by conducting the spirit of generosity with which we are surrounded in the living ocean. Waves, those most infinitely renewable resources, are energetic pulses that arrive to gift us the giddy joy of lala, or the “controlled slide,” as ancient Hawaiians called the sensation of riding alaia. - Words By Lauren Hill
“So, when a new face shows up to the lineup, extend the same grace and opportunity the ocean extends to every single person who dares to take the chance to ride her waves.”
In “Sea Us Now” we reimagine African American’s relationship with an open coastline and the sea. A representation of our history and one that we were not afforded the opportunity to partake in. Seen through the lens of African American filmmaker Bethany Mollenkof, we merge both black beach culture of times past with the art of riding waves. Redefining standards of beauty many women during that time period were expected to adhere to. We glorify our natural hair, glowing melanin, and curvature of our figures. As we are now. We challenge the viewer to examine the time period that is often reflected on with nostalgia, but don’t intend for the viewer to remain stuck in historical narratives. We hope that this films serves as an inspirational piece to future generations, that despite history we can create pathways for what we want to see for ourselves, now and in the future. - Chelsea Woody of Textured Waves
Sea Us Now Official
And the full Live Premiere Hosted By Selema Masekela Q/A With Textured Waves, & Seea's Founder Amanda Chinchelli Here
Special Thanks To Everyone Involved In The Making Of This Project
Music: Dojo Cuts