“It’s why my blog is called ‘Black People Don’t Surf’ ‘cause people assume black people don’t surf. But we do,”
By Candace Stalder of Stalderart.com
Driving east down a street in LA, 12 miles from the ocean, in the distance is a colorful house. Longboards are spread all over the lawn. With the sound of James Brown spilling from the front door and windows, this was the right right place. Most people know her as the “Surf Sista,” few know her as Mary. She’s a fifty-year-old Black lady who started surfing 13 years ago, she rides a longboard, rides a surf mat, plays the drums, skates a half pipe in her backyard, writes a popular blog, surfandthefury.blogspot.com, and to top it all off has a 13 year old son.
“Right after my son was born, I picked up surfing,” she said.
Growing up she wasn’t a surfer, at least not to the outside world. But on the inside, she knew where she belonged. Blowing past the stereotypes, she got herself into the water.
“People stare. They don’t say anything to me, they just stare,” Mary said. “It’s why my blog is called ‘Black People Don’t Surf’ ‘cause people assume black people don’t surf. But we do,” She adds.
She’s hard to miss if you’re out in the line-up with her big smile, big board, friendly attitude, and her signature colorful wetsuits.
“It’s different now then when I first started to surf. People recognize me now,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t know who they are but they know me, at least they’re saying hello instead of staring, right? ”
Misconceptions still happen from time to time.
“A good one is, ‘Greetings mon!” Mary said as she demonstrated her blank stare and how she turns her back and paddles away when people greet her like that. “Just because I’m black and have dreads, doesn’t mean I’m Rastafarian. And no, I don’t want a hit.”
What’s her ride of choice? Her surf mat. Most surfers ponder, why would anyone choose a mat over a surfboard?
“It’s like taking LSD and I’ve never taken LSD before,” she described.”If you thought being on top of a wave was life changing, imagine actually being so close and connected to the wave you can feel each little movement; It’s as close to being one with the wave as you can get. You can feel it’s energy at its purest form.”
Mary feels that there’s a certain “uncoolness” factor around the mat with mat advocates throughout the world to “maybe be about 500.”
“It’s different, that’s what I like best about it. We’ve all had days where our boards just aren’t working. I keep three mats in my car, just in case [along with fins],” she said. “I can go out on big days and catch waves I wouldn’t normally be able to, or ride any conditions where my board just isn’t working”
As for her favorite type of surfboard, Mary prefers a heavy colorful longboard matching her personality.
“I’m having a board shaped right now by Dan Cobley,” she said as she rewaxed her two other boards. “It’s a pintail. I’ve never surfed one before but people kept telling me I should.”
Following the interview, the next time in the water she had her new Cobley pintail laminated handsomely by Mangiagli Glassing in a white with a turquoise stripe. Mary was ripping on it with smooth, easy turns and some fancy switch stance footwork. It’s almost enjoyable to get caught inside just to have a front row seat.
Besides riding waves on different aquatic equipment, Mary has taken up drumming. Hearing her play did not disappoint.
“Drumming wasn’t something available to me in the past,” she said. “I picked it up around time I picked up surfing.”
She tried to play down her ability to rock, but sitting behind her yellow kit, sticks in hand, hitting out a beat, causes the observer to bob their head and tap a foot to the rhythm. It was apparent she felt at home
“We jam on Fridays,” she said with a smile. “We were playing James Brown last time.”
Her guilty pleasure is the cowbell which bridged into Mary going into her eclectic taste in good sounds.
“Want to hear songs that feature a cowbell?” Mary said while showing many examples on her Facebook page. It’s amazing the amount of songs she can find. If nothing else, it shows how much music flows through her. Her passion makes you feel passionate about something you had no idea was there.