BASN’s “Xtreme Factor”

By Rhonda R. Harper
Updated: March 13, 2007

Rosaura Alvarez of Venezuela

Rosaura Alvarez of Venezuela

LOS ANGELES — Let’s flashback for just a second to your childhood, do you remember your very first skateboard? Or the first time you watched Gidget or Beach Blanket Bingo? I remember both.

It was a yellow “Makaha” with a wide deck and fat wheels. My mother brought seven skateboards home one day after work. I was the youngest, so I got to pick first.

I rode that board with my brothers everyday. Our childhood memories always have a board adventure somewhere included.

Certain programs played on television in the 70’s the same time every year. This was before there were 200 hundred channels to choose from.

In the winter there was always Frosty the Snowman, the fall was Charlie Brown’s Halloween, the spring The Ten Commandments and summer, my personal favorite “Beach Blanket Bingo”. This would define my life.

Beach Blanket Bingo a campy movie about the Californian surf scene. The movie features Frankie Avalon and everyone’s favorite Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello, in a host of hilariously cheesy antics.

The surf scenes are corny, but for a girl in Kansas City, this was a magical world. In all of the violence and political protest for freedom, this was my vacation while on summer vacation.

I never thought that decades later my childhood toys and fantasies would become a glamorous multi-billion dollar industry. Pop star like to the world.

There are surf superstars like Kelly Slater and Layne Beachley, who both have won multiple world titles in surfing. These two tireless surfers surf all over the world, Africa, South America, the Caribbean and other exotic locations sponsored by major corporations.

I remember watching the new teenage phenom, Kelly Slater surf Hawaii’s Pipeline.

You have to wonder, where are the Michael Jordan or Barry Bonds of surfing? Good question. There are a growing number of African American surfers; there are also Afro-Latinos, Africans, and Afro-Caribbean.

From Hawaii to New York City, African-Americans visibility in the water is causing a stir. The fashion industry has also taken notice. Afro-Athletics merchandise is a multi-billion dollar industry in apparel alone.

There are now African American extreme sport retailers blooming in urban areas. Southern California’s surf and skate scene has its own pulse. A new surf synergy is coming.

Socio-economics is the major factor in the lack of Afro presence. Funding for entrance fees, travel and basic surf supplies are expensive. Sponsorships for these talented individuals are scarce. Most young surfers rely on smaller sponsorships from local shops and businesses.

Last year, a rookie Latino American surfer, Bobby Martinez caused such a stir in the surf world it was almost measured at tsunami proportions. I watched as the Santa Barbara native accepted his awards for Rookie of the Year at the Surfer Magazine’s People Choice Awards.

I was so proud of him. I knew the strength it took for him to get that far in an industry that is predominately Caucasian. Bobby left that night with awards for each room of his house. Bobby’s historic achievements has caused the sleepy “worldwide underground” to awaken.

This year the Caribbean Surf Network has launched their first contest series 2007 Caribbean Challenge Cup, March 2-4th. Their event #1 was held in San Souci, Trinidad W.I. Warren Rostant, the President of Surf Association of Trinidad & Tobago (SATT), said the event was stellar.

Alan Davies, vice-president said, “You should have seen it. The conditions were perfect”. The Jamaica Surfing Association has reported that they would like to attend the Jr. World Championships in Portugal in May.

Here in the United States, unification of the surf scene for African Americans is still an underground movement. There is, however, a budding new generation of surfers like Rahim Walker, soul surfer, and writer. He is one of few African American surfers leading the way. Rahim is chronicling his 5-year surf adventure.

Surfing may seem like a cultural taboo, but it is not. African American surfers have been around since the 40’s. The first African American surfer, Nicolas Gabaldon, was a pioneer of the surfing movement. Surfing is a lifestyle choice.

It’s addicting. The “stoke” or ultimate emotional high you get when you are wave riding is unlike anything you will ever experience.