On Surfing

Mikey February

Illustration by Matt Titone

In South Africa, Mikey February was born during the sway of power that would come to define the Country, a child of the post-apartheid era who then became the first black surfer on the World Tour, but the flyover says much less than his surfing or spirit ultimately have.

Can you describe one of the most challenging aspects of surfing to you?

I feel like surfing has a lot of different ‘groups’. It can almost feel like high school at times.. You get people that are into competitive surfing, long boarding, those who like riding retro boards and being very expressive, free-surfers and then the progressive waterman types of people who ride foils and things like that. Even though we all love doing the same thing, that is being in the ocean and surfing, not every group is accepting of the other I guess and personally I find this challenging to deal with sometimes. This wasn’t as challenging before when I had the single minded focus of only competing, but since experiencing and exploring the different sides of surfing I have noticed everyone has opinions about these different groups. Personally I respect all forms of surfing and enjoy more than one “type” of surfing, so it isn’t really a problem, I just find it quite funny at times. 

What’s one of the most redemptive or rewarding parts of surfing?

Having a close relationship with the ocean is something very special to me. Spending so much time and becoming so comfortable in such an unpredictable place is really rewarding. Surfing is also my favourite medium of expression. 

Has surfing afforded you anything in life? If so, what?

Surfing has given me everything I’ve got. I am fortunate in that I can make an actual living off of it and provide for my family, but more than this it has given me my path in life and brought me to many different avenues in terms of opportunities and places and people I have met. 

How long can you go without surfing?

I didn’t think I could go very long without it, but having just gone through a National lockdown in South Africa where surfing was banned, I went about 50 days without it. This was the longest time since I started surfing and I definitely felt like a big part of me was missing. I really missed the feeling of being in the water during this time and I don’t really think there is anything comparable. 

How and when did you fall in love with surfing?

I’d say the first few years from when I started surfing were the most memorable years. From the beginning you kind of start from nothing and there’s so much progression during this time so every time I’d surf it will be so exciting and I’d be trying to learn to do something new. It was as simple as going sideways for the first time that was so rewarding. I think also just going from being unfamiliar with the water and your boards to being totally comfortable is a special process and it was during this process that I fell in love with surfing. 

What’s one of your pre/post-surf rituals you hold dear?

I don’t really have any pre or post-surf rituals but I enjoy listening to music beforehand to kind of set the vibe.

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Michael Adno

Michael is a writer and photographer born in Florida as a first-generation American to Austrian and South African parents. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Bitter Southerner, and The Surfer’s Journal among other magazines.

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