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.
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.