Tag Archives: Surfing

Exclusive: Smashing The Brazilian Stereotype

By Guest Contributor Tetsuhiko Endo, cross-posted from The Inertia

Adriano De Souza has been one of Brazil's most successful surfers. Criticisms have certainly accompanied that success. Photo: ASP/Kirstin

Of the many hoary clichés that the surfing world zealously cultivates, (from “selling out” to “soul surfing” to “unspoiled natives”) one stands out above the rest as being particularly ugly–the Brazilian stereotype. It is rare that the subject of surfing’s third nation comes up either in conversation or print without someone mentioning supposedly Brazilian traits like lack of etiquette, poor style, loud demeanors, “passion” (whatever the hell that means), and/or a propensity towards violence. As Australian Surfing Life once put it, (way back in 1994, no less) A Brazilian in the water is “The bastard surfer … a dark-haired, rude-as-f-ck, uncivilized prick, ripping off [waves] like a pirate stealing gold.”

“Prejudice is a reality in surfing but people don’t talk about it,” says Brazilian pro surfer Junior Faria. “It has been shamefully hidden behind words like ‘stereotype’ and ‘joke.’ I’ve heard and read things that are really heavy and the worst part is that people actually think it’s okay to make those statements. They think that we won’t understand or that everyone thinks those statements are funny, too.”

I got in touch with Faria and the Executive Editor of Brazil’s version of The Surfer’s Journal, Jair Bortoleto, to ask them about prejudice, if some of it is well founded, and what they make of it. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Portuguese, so although they were able to give me insight, they had to do it in their second languages, which, as Faria pointed out, is another issue that Brazilians have in trying to explain themselves to English speakers. “Some ignorant people think that we aren’t as intelligent because of the accent we have when speaking English.”

“The main stereotype I hear about Brazilians is that we are loud and aggressive,” says Bortoleto. “I say it’s true in some cases, and it’s not true in others. People can get angry everywhere. In Australia, for example I’ve seen some nasty stuff from the surfers. So I think you have to see both sides of the coin.” He also points out that what is sometimes construed as aggression is instead a certain cultural demonstrativeness. “Passionate is not aggressive. There are passionate Brazilians, that surf for the love, and there are aggressive guys that mostly travel together and are loud.”

“People who assume this (that Brazilians, as a whole are loud and aggressive) don’t have a problem with Brazilians only, they have problems with anyone who comes from different backgrounds or cultures,” says Faria. “I know that some guys have no respect and sometimes act like d-ck heads, but there are assholes everywhere: Australia, America, Mexico, Tahiti, every single country in the world has their share. Most ‘international’ surfers think every single Brazilian is loud, aggressive, blah, blah, blah, but that’s a huge mistake. I think 90% of the surfers that have that prejudice against us have never met us.”

By this point, some of you, dear readers, are perhaps disagreeing with the gentlemen I’ve quoted. Maybe you’ve had a first hand incident while traveling somewhere that proves that yours isn’t a prejudice, but an unconditional truth. I know: your home break gets invaded by large groups of Brazilians and they take your waves without showing due respect. I know: Adriano De Souza gets over-scored in Brazil, unforgivable. Unfortunately, if you think any of this adds up to substantial evidence supporting a generally negative view of Brazilians, you have miscalculated. The prevailing negative view of Brazilians in the surf world is a product of underlying prejudice within American and Australian society, and I’m going to explain why.
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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Andrea Kabwasa

By Andrea Plaid

Thanks to reader Liz B. commenting on Tetsuhiko Endo’s post on the racism-based history of Black people and water recreation, I checked out the documentary, White Wash, about Black people and surfing…and fell for the grooviness that is Black surfer Andrea Kabwasa. When I wanted to express my happiness at leaving my corporate job after four years of dealing with workplace harassment, mainly from an white male IT manager and his subordinates–and aided and abetted by my Black male ex-supervisor–this photo of Kabwasa perfectly captured my feelings.

Courtesy: Liquid Magazine

 

Liquid joy.

I’m going to fall back and crush out some more in the corner while she talks about her love for the water and the board. From an interview with Liquid Salt, an online mag about surfing (h/t to Black Skater Chick):

When did you get your first surfboard?
Age 32. That was the year of major epiphanies for me.

What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I can’t remember really. I do, however, remember how I felt afterwards—happy. I had forgotten what that felt like, to be truly happy without a care in the world (even if it was only for an hour). Needless to say, I was hooked.

Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
France, Southern Baja and Southern California are all important to me for different reasons. France stands out because of the traumatic boarding school experience. It haunted me all my life. Surfing and counseling was the cure. Southern California is the only location that has truly felt like home to me.

What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Short version? Surfing saved my life. Long version? When I discovered surfing, I was trying to recover from the psychological effects and residue of an abusive relationship. Surfing gave me joy and happiness when I hadn’t felt happiness in years. I will never forget my drive home after my first surfing lessons. I was filled with a pure happiness, the kind of happiness that wasn’t connected to anything or anyone. I was simply happy.

So, for me, surfing is happiness, love and self-empowerment. The act of interacting with water cleansed my inner spirit. Before surfing, the lens from which I viewed life was pretty dirty. I was filled with low self-worth and, at times, I made some pretty self-destructive choices. Surfing redirected that energy in a positive direction. When I surf, I feel beautiful. I’m a starting to feel beautiful on dry land too now.

Debunking The Stereotype That Blacks Don’t Swim

Courtesy 12 Miles North

By Guest Contributor Tetsuhiko Endo, cross-posted from The Inertia

In the great and varied canon of American racial stereotypes, there is a highly detailed list of segregated sports. Basketball, for instance, is a “Black” sport. Hockey, on the other hand, is for Whites. Surfing falls firmly into the category of “white sport,” somewhere between mountaineering and golf. It could be argued that there is no “whiter” sport in the world that was originally invented by non-whites. There are many ways to illustrate this, but let’s leave it here: It is the only sport since the 1936 summer Olympics in which the 2009 world champion, Mick Fanning, can say something overtly anti-Semitic to a reporter and the outlet that reports the statement will be blamed for bad taste.

Why don’t black people surf? That can be answered with another race-based generalization: Black people don’t swim. Consider the numbers: A 2010 study by US Swimming, America’s governing body of competitive swimming, found that nearly half of White children (42 percent) had low or no swimming ability. That number was topped by Hispanic American children; 58 percent of whom reported no or low swimming ability. Black children had the highest non-swimming rates at just under than 70 percent.

I suspect that the white numbers are slightly inflated based on the fact many that my Caucasian, land-lubbing friends define “swimming” as walking into a pool up to their waist, getting out, then applying more coconut oil. But that doesn’t change the fact that swimming rates among Black children are abysmal. Infinitely more worrisome is that Black children are around three times more likely to drown than White children, based on another study by US swimming, which is apparently the only organization who studies these sorts of things.

There is one problem with these studies: although the numbers are correct, the conclusion that we causally draw from them is utterly corrupt. The numbers tell us that many black people don’t swim; Our interpretation, however, is that black people are not swimmers, which is wrong. The truth is that American blacks have a long and well-documented history of loving to swim. In order to understand why African American culture does not currently enjoy a well established culture of recreational swimming, we need to delve under the stereotypes and generalizations and look at the history of exclusion that has accompanied their efforts to access the water.

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