Monday, December 8th, 2008
Fast forward a few years to 2005. That’s when Kwezi won his first title, the National Under 18 Longboarding Championships. Long boarding is “more chilled than short boarding,” he says. “It’s more like cruising, taking it easy.”
Kwezi was the first black African to ever win a surfing title.
He is quick to shrug off conversations around race, saying that he gets tired of being seen as a black surfer “rather than just a surfer.” Regardless, he realizes that it still matters. When he started surfing he had no black role models to look up to. His initial fears of surfing had partly to do with not seeing black surfers, nor black people swimming in the sea. “I had to do [it] on my own—now that there’s other black kids coming up it’s great.” He likes it when he has young black kids come up to him and say that “they’re going to grow up and be better than [him].” That’s how it should be, Kwezi says. It shouldn’t be about race. It should be about making your dreams come true, whatever they are. Still, he sees himself as a role model not just to black kids—but to any kid.
Kwezi has taken several surfing titles already, but he remembers the first one like it was yesterday. His mom was in the audience cheering him on, and that was really important to him. She wasn’t too excited about him taking up surfing in the first place, he says. “But she’s come around since the championship.”
He barely remembers what he was like back on that day when he first got on the board, and wonders if he would recognize himself. “Back when I just started surfing I was quite scrawny.” Surfing strengthened not only his body, but his mind too. It has shaped the way he understands and relates to other people. “Surfing has opened me up…It’s not a colour thing for me, it’s not a racial thing for me, I just hang out because I want to hang out. I don’t look at your skin colour and say oh do you want to hang out? I can hang out with whoever whenever.”
These days Kwezi surfs a lot, gives lessons for a local surf shop, and is busy studying for a business degree. He hopes to get all he can from his surfing career, to continue to do competitions and take any other opportunity that comes his way. He knows that there’s a life on the other side of professional surfing, one that he needs to prepare for now. “Maybe I’ll open my own surf shop one day,” he adds.
Whatever Kwezi decides to do in his future, I’m sure he’ll give it his all. Watch this space, Kwezi Qika is making waves.