16 June, 2020 16 June, 2020

Stay in Your Lane

Last week we published a video of Sal Masekela making a speech at a paddle out in Encinitas, California in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a small post, sharing what we believe is a relevant and inspirational video from Hugh Masekela’s surfing son. We added that, here at Zigzag, we support the call. We encourage South African surfers to use this moment to challenge the status quo, to question why there are so few black surfers at our beaches and to stand with those unjustly murdered during the lockdown by our “over-zealous” police and military. We suggested, that when our beaches are open, we should have a paddle-out in solidarity with these issues as this is far more in line with our values than a “Surfer’s Protest” that was called to challenge the momentary suspension of surfing under the Covid-19 Lockdown regulations.

Our Facebook exploded in a sea of reaction and vitriol.

“All lives matter!”
“Stay in your lane Zigzag, you bunch of cakes!”
“You go woke, you go broke!”
“How to destroy a brand 101.”
“Don’t bring politics into surfing!”

It’s not our intention to alienate or castigate anyone. We all share a common love for surfing and the goodness it brings. What’s plain to see is that the subject, even here in South Africa where we should all be experts in race relations, is highly polarising.

The point we want to address right now is that every choice we make in life is political. We have arrived in this moment through a history of events (slavery, colonialism, apartheid) that benefited some while being unjust and damaging to many others. This is what Black Lives Matter is all about. Not that other lives matter less, but that black lives matter just as much.

Surfing is not, somehow, magically suspended from this politics. It is inherently wrapped up in it. The very fact that we surfers are able to choose to spend our lives pursuing the totally absurd concept of riding bands of energy in the ocean, as an act that gives our lives meaning, is a wonderful privilege, denied to many others simply by the poverty they were born into.

Surf stoke is an uplifting force for good. It is a true privilege. We need to share it.

And yes some heroes, from difficult backgrounds, manage to rise above their circumstances, through willpower, determination and good fortune, to join our surfing tribe. But it should be easier than that.

And now, in case you think we’re preaching, let us cast the first stone at ourselves. What is true, even if painful for us to admit, is that Zigzag has been truly kak at representing both the excellence and diversity in South African surfing. We’ve been myopic and comfortable in our privileged echo chamber. Instead of leading the charge, too often we’ve sat back and simply reflected SA’s current surfing reality without striving hard enough to push it forward.

Covid-19 gives us an opportunity to re-evaluate these things, chuck out what is not working, improve and step forward. We embrace this opportunity.

The good news is that, without it being a central narrative of the surfing community, South Africa has actually achieved a huge amount of momentum in this direction. Surfing admin has become more integrated and accessible. Grassroots surf organisations around the country (and the continent) share the stoke with thousands of kids each week. The world championship tour has existed, in one form or another, since 1976 but 42 years later, in 2018, the first black surfer to ever qualify for the WCT is a kid from Kommetjie called Mikey February. It’s moving, but we can do more.

In South Africa we all know that sport can heal and unite our fractured society. Look at the example set by rugby. Before 1994 Springbok rugby was a symbol of white supremacy and apartheid power. Today they are the world’s finest rugby team, made up of the most representative and racially diverse group of players, selected on merit alone. June 16, seems like a good time to hold up this example as a vision for surfing.

Let’s do this.


  1. Val
    16 June, 2020 at 3:55 pm · Reply

    A Really well written piece and a long awaited response to the call that is begging for equality in South Africa. Thank you!

  2. Deon
    16 June, 2020 at 4:16 pm · Reply

    Love it. That’s right, *everything* is political. Even the way you interact with your friends, that’s a kind of politics too. That’s how things in life are organised. So let’s see the world as it is, with open eyes. And make it better and leave it better than we found it.
    Go The Zag. Proud of you!

  3. Paul
    16 June, 2020 at 4:25 pm · Reply

    Zag is finding its voice and its a big one! Yay! and Bravo! Love you guys!

  4. Colin Fitch
    16 June, 2020 at 4:44 pm · Reply

    Well done Zigzag. Sal Masekela is a great chap that I was priviliged to spend some time with last year. While he was not born here, his heart will belong to Africa and especially South Africa. Sometime, somewhere, someone comes along and helps clear the sleep from your eyes. I am sure MFeb will be the first to say please do not label me as a black surfer from a previously disadvantaged background. He and he alone has made his own road through hard work, commitment and dedecation. He has super wonderful parents in Issac and Mersha who helped develop this fine young man and the giving person we see in MFab today. I have been priviliged to see him at work with kids from the informal settlement. They love him to bits and rightly so. I have also been to Senegal where blacks were chained, put on an island and then put into the holds of ships and sent off to places far from home never to see their families again. So do we say that #blacklivesmatter? Yes they do. How long do we have to support this? For as long as it takes. People can shoot me down but I will get up and do it again. Some people will call me names. Bring it on. I am committed along with many others to this cause. As I am committed to Zigzag and the wonderful magazine that has been running for 44 years. What a wonderful legacy to our sport. We along with many organisations have stood behind many of the feeding programs going on right now. I am so humbled by their commitment in the communities. So to end off by saying thank you to Andy Davis, Glenn Drysdale and the rest at Zigzag for support of the outreach projects #blacklivesmatter.

  5. Jed
    16 June, 2020 at 5:39 pm · Reply

    Awesome stuff. Progressive, logical and true

  6. Saskia Koerner
    16 June, 2020 at 8:08 pm · Reply

    Love your work Zag !

  7. Name (required)Hagen
    16 June, 2020 at 9:04 pm · Reply

    BlackLivesMatter indeed. For they have been treated too cheaply for too long. May surfing’s progressive growth continue!

  8. jackie
    17 June, 2020 at 12:02 am · Reply

    Well done Zigzag for a beautiful editorial. There are some issues and stories that only have one side. #BlackLivesMatter is one of those stories.

  9. james
    17 June, 2020 at 7:22 am · Reply

    Some guy who has white privilege and went to a private white school wants to talk about the subtle art of the communist take over. Please if you feel bad about being wealthy hand it over and be poor like the rest of us.

  10. Indy
    17 June, 2020 at 11:30 am · Reply

    Go Mfeb go ZAG!…..shine that beacon of hope bra!

    The kids are watching you.

    Set the example.

    See ya in the line up with a smile…..black/white/pink/blue/magenta what ever your shade.

  11. Graeme
    17 June, 2020 at 4:03 pm · Reply

    The proliferation of social media comments about Coronavirus and the BLM protests by surfers on platforms here and globally have shown us that way too many surfers (probably the majority) are bigots and racists. Any feeble hope that the surfing culture in general had embraced an evolved worldview that encompassed a deeper understanding of life and empathy for the poor, has been shattered for once and for all.

    • Sven
      24 June, 2020 at 6:34 pm · Reply

      Screw you with your bigot and racist comment. You clearly one of those liberal idiots that have the fantasy of love, no war and feed the poor. Sounds all nice but has zero to do with real life or since the minute that man stood up on 2 feet. If you starving and cannot even feed yourself, how can you have 6 kids. I love nature, the environment and the human being is a virus, let’s just breed more, there goes my empathy…

      • Graeme
        28 June, 2020 at 4:33 pm · Reply

        Nothing like an angry white man in full cry. And likely impotent too given the voracity. Thank fuck because your spawn would to too vile to contemplate.

  12. Craig
    17 June, 2020 at 6:45 pm · Reply

    Absolutely agree with solidarity against injustice and the need for surfing to be enjoyed by all South Africans who choose (wisely!) to surf. Really, every life matters! That has been wonderfully demonstrated through many initiatives given publicly on Zag and these should continue.

  13. Sven
    24 June, 2020 at 7:21 pm · Reply

    I still strongly believe that Zag should keep out of politics. I thought Zag would apologize but it looks like Zag is digging a deeper hole. It doesn’t matter if it is a justifiable cause or not, none of the overseas magazines or websites have posted anything about BLM or asked it’s followers to show solidarity. How about a paddle out and showing solidarity for the white farmers getting butchered for years now and the government refuses to even recognize this shocking fact. I guess that doesn’t count with Zag because they white.

    Every piece of land on earth has been fought over, the conqueror pillages the land, strips the conquered of their assets, rapes their woman, kills the conquered or forces them to work for the conquerors or pay the conquered. This happened in Europe for centuries but has just been given a new term, colonialism. The Romans, Vikings, communists did exactly the same. It’s happened in Africa, Shaka Zulu was a pro at this and it’s still happening in Africa.

    I agree that there were some seriously unjust, unfair things that happened in the past but that happened everywhere!! This unjustness is still happening in many places of the world, India (caste system), Chinese peasants have been and are still being used as army ants, woman are being horrifically abused by men in the Muslim world and especially in the African world. I can go on forever here….

    We can definitely learn from the past (and present) and use that knowledge to better ourselves, things around us, uplift and help those disadvantaged from the past. After watching the violence, the looting, the burning (which also happened in the LA riots), historical facts I have pointed out, BLM can kiss my ass and I certainly won’t be joining any solidarity paddle out. Of course I never imagined myself writing such a comment on a surf website and it will be my last……

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