Over the past year, we produced a video project that we’re very proud of called Boycott the Gunston 500. It details Tom Carroll’s decision to boycott professional surfing to protest apartheid in South Africa during the height of his career. He was a defending two-time World Champion in 1985. He had a lot to lose and little to gain by taking that stand. In fact, Carroll never won another world title.
While filming for the project, we spoke with Sal Masekela, one of brightest stars representing surf and action sports culture to the world at large. Sal is also deeply connected to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Sal’s late father, Hugh Masekela, was an iconic jazz musician, whose music is inextricably tied to Nelson Mandela and all that Madiba represented. If you haven’t heard his music before, this video below of a performance with Paul Simon in Zimbabwe in 1987 (during Mandela’s imprisonment) will be a treat.
“Bring back Nelson Mandela. Bring him back back home to Soweto. I want to see him walking the streets of South Africa. Tomorrow.” It’s soul-stirring.
In speaking with Sal about Tom’s boycott, we also got a deeper understanding of his own experience as a black surfer, something he’s spoken candidly with The Inertia about in the past. But Sal shared a story about the first time he ever surfed in South Africa after apartheid was ended that makes your skin crawl.
“I went with the idea of like, ‘I’m going to get to surf,’ because those laws don’t exist anymore, but those laws had only been in non-existence for like four or five months,” Masekela told us. “But in my young nineteen-year-old brain, I’m just figuring everything’s going to be okay. When I got there it was just instant smack in the face.”
“It was the most humiliating, incomprehensible experience with racism I had yet had to date in my life,” Sal told us.
The clip above is an outtake from Boycott the Gunston 500, which we hope to make available to you soon. We will keep you posted with details and screenings. You can also watch an extremely heart-felt exchange between Tom Carroll and Sal Masekela at our first-ever EVOLVE Summit here.
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Manda for supporting this project.