It’s been said that those who Mami Wata takes to be her lovers return better looking and more successful; these are a few of the individuals who have ventured into the surf with Mami Wata and made it back safely. These are her lovers.
Sal Masekela. A musical prince of the waves. You don’t need to be told this. You can see it in the angular cut of his beard and the powerful thighs. But mostly it’s in the voice: regal. Like a lion purring; all honey and gravel.
Son of the African musical giant bra Hugh, Sal was born in New York while his dad was in exile from apartheid South Africa. Sal fell in love with sliding on waves on the West Coast, in Carlsbad California. The original, self-ordained #shreddynegro. Then it was music, skateboards, business and being in front of cameras all day: ESPN, E, Red Bull, Vice, National Geographic and more. Always with the voice and the easy demeanour.
And now it’s in the music, like a spell that makes you instantly broad-minded and better looking. Alekesam! Soul grooves for the new world.
To stay stoked, he mentors kids on behalf of the non-profit action sports organisation for at-risk youth that he co-founded, that goes by the same name: Stoked.
Sal knows that African nature cures. Mami Wata is a homecoming of sorts. There will be adventure, waves, music, feasting and dancing.
Alan van Gysen
Scouring over a map, a hot mug of black coffee steaming in his hand, trademark wide-brimmed sun hat pushed back so he can get a better view of the cartography. This is Alan van Gysen in his zone. Exploring Africa in pursuit of undiscovered waves sounds like a dream, let alone a job. But this is the little niche of excellence that the photographer has carved for himself. His images are coveted by all the big names in surf media: The Surfer’s Journal, Stab, Surfer, Surfline and Zigzag and increasingly beyond towards platforms like National Geographic and Popular Mechanics. The man works hard. ‘There can be no joy without sweat.’ He’ll quote from the bible with a smile. Alan puts in the hard work. He could have been an olympic swimmer, if surfing hadn’t captured his imagination and cameras turned his head. But that strong work in the pool gives him the edge when swimming in the cold impact zone of the Skeleton Bay or floating precariously between volcanic reef and thundering waves in Equatorial Guinea.
Alan embodies Mami Wata’s thirst for adventure as he dances across the map, eyes searching out those rare grooves; the unspoilt places where natural wonder abides.
Avuyile Ndamase aka Avo has been with Mami Wata since day one. A powerful goofy footer from Second Beach Port St Johns, Pondoland, who graduated to manhood on the beaches of Mzansi: from the cold waters of Benguela current on the East Coast to the tropical mist blowing off the Indian Ocean in the East, the ocean is his home.
He’s surfed competitively for a number of years and achieved some podium success. He’s also worked as a surf coach, guide, barman and carpenter. These days he’s more of a free surfer, a nomadic wave hustler, but he still burns a flame for competitive success and even though he won’t admit it out loud, an olympic medal would definitely complete the picture, the vision he’s been nurturing since he first felt that euphoric release of sliding across a wave standing on his feet.
“I like to see myself as an ambassador of change for all those Pondo kids growing up in the Transkei, not being able to see further than the sticks and dung. I am that person.”
As the nyangas say, the power we get from the sea changes you in strange ways.
Avo fulfills a number of important roles at Mami Wata: surfer, model, sales assistant, partner, friend, conspirator and ever-willing shotgun-rider on surf missions. A true Mami Wata lover.