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Tribe of Zen Founder Kwame LaBassiere: Diversity in the Lineup
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Tribe of Zen Founder Kwame LaBassiere: Diversity in the Lineup

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With the unrest that happened in summer 2020, more and more surfers of color are emerging and finding a space in the lineup. And yet, there is still resistance from other people of color and certain disbelief from others.

In this podcast episode, I got the chance to talk to Kwame LaBassiere about diversity in the lineup, Tribe of Zen, being an activist and ocean conservationist, how's it like surfing in Rockaway, and many more.

More About Kwame LaBassiere:

  • He has been surfing for 19 years.
  • He is the Head Surf Instructor for New York Surf School and also a yoga instructor.
  • He participated in the Black Surfing Association East Coast Chapter paddle out for racial injustice last June in the wake of George Floyd’s murder as the Kahuna Nui or ocean priest.
  • He is an activist and ocean conservationist.

Social Media Profiles:

Topics Covered:

  • You are originally from the Caribbean—how did you end up in NY?
  • What’s it like surfing in Rockaway?
  • What was the inspiration for Tribe of Zen?
  • What kind of activities are you doing at Tribe of Zen?
  • Talk to me about diversity in the lineup.
  • Are you optimistic about the future of America?
  • What needs to change in your opinion?
  • Describe your first surfboard?
  • What is the best wave you have surfed?
  • Your favorite surf trip?
  • Did we miss anything?

Location: Rockaway, New York


Kwame, welcome to Saltwater High podcast. How are you today?

I'm great, Derek. Thanks for having me.

Oh, dude, I'm so stoked to have you here. Yeah, I've got a lot of questions about what's going on over there. East Coast to West Coast right here. This is exciting. I've surfed a little bit in Florida, but I've never surfed up in your area. I've no idea what it's like.

Winter surfing in on the East Coast is definitely something that I'd want you to experience at least once, just so you can appreciate what you do have when it's warm.

Yeah, absolutely. And so Rockaway, where is Rockaway exactly from New York City? Because I know the city.

So Rockaway is actually east of Manhattan. So east of New York City. It's technically part of Queens. So you just head out east. It's right smack between, I would say, Manhattan and Long Island.

Okay, so do you actually have to get off of Manhattan and get on a ferry or how would you go like if I were in downtown New York, how would I get to Rockaway?

Oh, well, there are a couple of ways. There's a song by the Ramones, Rockaway Beach, where they say just take the A train. And that still works today. You can just hop on the A train and go there. Or you can get a ferry now that can take you straight down to Rockaway, passes through Brooklyn, takes you to Rockaway, or you can do the tried and true way, hop on the car and just drive across the bridge and just keep heading east and you're bound to hit it.

Nice. And what are the set ups like? Is it reef, beach break, river mouths? What's going on over there?

Rockaway's mainly a beach break. So it's mainly shore break. It's average, I would say, an average swell for us is anywhere between two to four feet. When we get storms off the coast, it can get up to anywhere between six to eight, sometimes six to nine feet. But on average, we get anywhere between two to four in the summer. It's a little smaller, but that's what we generally surf.

Okay. And so do you get the winter storms? Do they push swell in there? What's your hurricane swell? What's the main kind of swell window?

It's usually, I would say, it's beginning of late August into late October. That's when everyone all of a sudden remembers that they have to call in sick to work and all the dental appointments come in and all of a sudden you think that you are only going to be out there for one hour and then one hour turns into six hours. So, yes, it's usually between late August and late October. That's when we get the majority of our swell.

Okay, cool. So you're originally from the Caribbean. How does somebody from the Caribbean end up in New York City?

Oh, it is a heck of a story.

Yeah, let's hear it.

I left actually to come up to college. I lived in Miami for a while when I was in college and even there then I moved up to New York. To tell you the truth, I moved up to New York for a girl, and then I started to decide you know what I actually like it out here. So I stuck it out for a little bit longer. And while I was out here, I always want to learn how to surf. But being in the Caribbean, many people when I told them that I learned to surf in New York, they're like "But yeah but you're from the islands. How come you didn't learn down there?" And I really didn't have the hardware to surf at the time. There weren't many boards around and not that many people are willing to teach us. So I really didn't learn until I moved up to New York. And the funny thing is, I actually went out to Rockaway Beach and I sat down on the shore one time and I was looking at these guys out there surfing. And I walked up to this one guy afterwards and I looked him and said, "Hey, can I borrow that?" And he looks at me, he goes, "My boy?" I said, "Yeah. Can I borrow that?" So he looks me up, he looks me down, he goes "Huh. This should be funny. Go ahead."

Oh God! So you just grabbed his board and you paddled out?

Yeah. Well, I got his board and I do something that try to look like paddling out. But it was like a little 6' Potato Chip and I'm 6'1 at the time and I was like a 180, 190 pounds so I had no clue what was going on, no idea what I was doing. And I tried it a couple days later and in a couple days later after that, and then this guy just walks up to me. He goes, "Okay, look man, we've been looking at you and this is just painful to watch. We're going to help you out." And that guy actually was he taught me how to surf and now he runs a surf school that I work with.

That's awesome. And was it the guy that you originally asked to borrow the board or was it some other guy?


Oh, it was?

Yeah, it was the same guy. Yup.

Dude, that's amazing. Because I have to tell you, if some random dude walked up to me and said, "Hey, I want to borrow your board." I would be like, "No way, dude!" I'm all for sharing but your surfboard is it's a personal, it depends on what board it is, too, but it's like..

It's part of you.

Yeah. It's like borrowing somebody's underwear.


You don't just do it. Oh, man.

I asked him numerous times. I was like, "Why did you lend me a board that day?" He's just, "I don't know. I just want to see what you could do."

That's awesome. Well, good on him, bro. Good on him. So you've got, tell me about Tribe of Zen and what's going on with that? What was the inspiration and what's your mission? And yeah, it sounds amazing.

So Tribe of Zen is really something I started a while back. It was just like on a lark. It wasn't anything that I did with any intention oh, this going to be something that we're going to dedicate time and whatever to. It was just as I got more and more and deeper and deeper into the surf lifestyle and I also am a yoga instructor as well so I got more and more into that lifestyle. And I thought to myself, I think there a lot of people who can benefit from this. There are people and as I began to teach more and more students, I'm sure you've heard this question many times, you have students say, "Oh, how can we surf like you? How do you guys make it look so easy? How do you guys do, how do you guys do that?" And a lot of times I'll them, it's really just a mindset. It's not the way I teach my students. I tell them "I can give you a carnival right away. You pay your money, I push you into a wave, I go wooo and then you come back. I can do it all day if you want. But I really would like to teach you how to really surf, appreciation of the water, appreciation of nature, appreciation of what we have around us, not just of the ocean, but also of yourself." And that's really where Tribe of Zen started. So it's not just you jump on a board, you paddle out and you catch a couple of waves and you run back in. It's you go out there, you sit down on the shore and you pay attention to the to the time, that you pay attention to the moons and you listen to the ocean and, you breathe in the salty air and you just appreciate what everything that Mother Nature is giving you at that point. And I think that's really where it started from. And it just grew after that, that everyone, people who started joining and people who started following me and my friends and family and their friends of their family, all of a sudden we just became this band of crew, literally a tribe of zen.

Yeah, I love that, man. And it's funny. Reason I was a little late to the podcast, and thanks for changing the time, we went on a surf trip. A really good swell came in this week and so we went up to a place called Jalama, which is like an hour and a half north of where I live in Ventura. And it's just this beautiful open water break with. There's no development. It's actually a county park. So you drive in this fourteen-mile road of all these oaks and different trees and pastures. And then you come up on this well, it's called Jalama, this beautiful surf break. But it's one of those breaks where you can see for miles, it looks like all you can see is ocean. And I was thinking, as you speak, I think you're kind of touching on this like what the ocean does to us. Right? Like how it must have some deep psychological impact on, imagine, you said you've been surfing like twenty years or so, all those years, looking out onto the horizon, right, and into the ocean. That in itself must have an impact on the mind.

Absolutely. Absolutely. The ocean is it's our happy place. It's a place where you find peace. It's a place where sometimes I will go down to the beach and I will just sit on the sand and just close my eyes and just listen to the ocean. And then I match my breath with the sound of the waves crashing, and that calms me down completely. We live in New York with one of the busiest cities in the world where there's always something going on somewhere, airplanes passing overhead, trains passing, cabbies yelling at each other, people yelling asking for falafels. There's always something going on. And sometimes you just need that peace. And it's always been the saltwater provides peace for every single time. I've never seen any student leave the ocean grimacing or frowning or just upset. They've always been able to walk into it upset, but then they walk out with a smile on their faces.

Yeah. True that, man. And do you find some alignment or some similarities between yoga practice and surfing and I'm sure you're going to say yes, but are there certain postures or stretches that you think are really good for surfers?

Oh, absolutely. To start it off, when I meditate, a lot of times when I'm sitting meditating, I'm imagining myself on a wave just with a barrel that's curling over me, tucked down into it. And just that peace at that moment when you're tucked into a barrel. And then that's like my meditation right then and there. It just goes and goes and goes like an endless barrel. And I find myself just so lost and my mind doesn't flow anywhere else because at that very moment, that's where I am. I am in that place. I am present. Nothing else is happening with time. And that's where I am. When you're paddling for a wave and you're about to be a popup up, you literally push yourself into an upward-facing dog or a baby cobra. Before you push yourself up.

Yeah, that's right. Huh.

Yeah. So that that portion right there and the fact that you're doing it on an unstable surface strengthens your core whether you realize it or not. So you do it on land, it becomes almost too simplistic on land because you've been doing it on the water for so many years. And I tell some of my students sometimes when I go away pre-COVID when I used to go away to surf, we walk around the wave and this way you can always tell who was a surfer and how long have they been surfing because they kind of walk with their shoulders back and their chest pop out a little bit because they've been doing that pose, whether they realize it or not for so long that it's almost become ingrained in them.


And that right there is a heart opener. It invites all the positive energy.

I love that, bro. Yeah, definitely. I got to do some more down dogs for my heart. Yeah, I feel like whenever I surf, I just came off a couple of days of a lot of surf and my body always feels so great. Besides the tiredness of the muscles and maybe a little bit of tightness from overuse of muscles, but it's like you think about the ways you twist and turn, like when you're duck diving and you're falling and you're doing an off the top. There's so many of those movements are very similar, I think, to yoga in a lot of ways, twisting and turning.

And one thing surfing teaches, you got to stay loose. You definitely you have to stay loose with your body. You can't tense up while you're out there because it makes you tense up while you try to stay too tense, while you're trying to do a bottom turn or come up on the lip or even cross-stepping. The minute you try to stay stiff, then you're just going to fall right over.

Yeah, true that. Cool, man. So, yeah. So this has been quite an incredible year in a lot of different ways. And one of the things I'd love to talk to you about is about diversity in the lineup. What are your thoughts on what has happened this year and how do you see the world from your lens? Yeah, I would love to just let you kind of open up about that.

Yeah. So thank you. So, like you said, this year was a very interesting, unique year for I think everybody. I know that we saw initially in on the East Coast when we started off, things started to increase slowly over, at least that's in New York. The number of sighting increase in New York and our beaches were never closed just because it's kind of hard to close the beaches in New York because we don't even have the lifeguards all year round like I know other places do. So we still got out there and we were still able to surf. But we were like, "Okay, hahaha board-length away from me. Stay away." As a matter of fact, I ride my longboard. "Stay nine feet away from me." But then as it began to get warmer and warmer, that's when things began to get a little bit more and more tense on the East Coast and in New York. So we had of course, everyone will shrug and not everyone but the publication and death of George Floyd. It was like fuel to the fire. And at that point that became a big issue in New York. So this one group that I work with, they did a paddle out for him. And initially I just went to support. Just went to support the paddle out. And when I got there the person who organized it said, "Hey, Kwame." I've known him. He and I teach at the surf school together. And he said, "Kwame, I need your help with this. Can you lead the paddle out on this one? You'll the zen guru person." I go, "I don't know about that, but I'll do my best." So we paddled out and we formed a circle and we did that for him. But then when I realized it that I started to look around and I did see faces of color. However, they were not as many as I, it hit me just that they were that few of them really.


And I began to think back. And since I have been surfing, they have been incidents where, I get out into line up and that everything happens. And we get into arguments with surfers. I generally try to be a calm person. If someone drops in on me, I will say, "Hey, whatever." If I drop in on someone, I'll apologize right away. I'm like, "Hey, I'm really sorry." There have been instances where it was just really, really a bad story where I have been called the N-word in the lineup before.


And I turned and I looked at the guy and I was like, "I'm sorry, what?" And his response was, "Yeah, you heard me." I just backed up and I thought, "Okay." And I start to paddle backwards and I just couldn't believe it at the time. And thankfully, there were other friends of mine who are white and they look at this guy and they literally chased him out of the water.


So and they're like, "We don't do that stuff in Rockaway." And they literally chased this guy out of the water. And some of them asked me, "Kwame, why didn't you do anything? Why didn't you say anything? If you are in a fight, we will back you up. You're a big guy, you can take him." And I just laughed and I said, "Yeah, let me explain something to you. Because if it got to that point, and the news or the cops or whoever it is had showed up, then I really would have been in trouble. Because what would have happened is they would have seen a black man fight a white man on the side." And at that point, that's not where I want to be. So add in everything with George Floyd and then Brianna Taylor and it really felt like for a while we were sitting down on a powder keg. And I've spoken with other people about it. And what I realized halfway into the summer is that as much as I, I mean, I love my adopted country. Like I said, I'm not from the US, but I moved here when I was about to go to college, I moved here when I was 19. So I love my adopted country. But other places that I've been to, the line up is more diverse there. I've only ever seen it not so exclusive, actually being trying inclusive in the US.

Yeah, I wonder why that is. Do you have any opinion about that?

Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think that one of the reasons why is that a lot of people of color, well for multiple reasons, but one, a lot of people of color have the impression that surfing is not for them. So I remember telling--because I've always wanted to learn how to surf. The first surf movie I ever saw, I'm probably dating myself here, but the first surf movie I ever saw was North Shore.


And I remember sitting down in the movie theater to watch it. My friends were there with their girlfriends and they were all like, "Yeah, we came on a ride." I'm sitting out there with my hand on my chin watching this movie, just fascinated with Gerry Lopez and Laird Hamilton and just fascinated with this movie. And the second surf movie I saw was Point Break. So ever since then, I said, "I want to do this. I want to become a surfer." And any one of my friends I told this to, the response they gave me was, "Why do you want to be a surfer? What do you think, you're an awesome white dude? Why do you want to be a surfer?" So I think that a lot of people of color feel that surfing is not for them and there's also the impression that once you have the equipment, then you happen. But getting the equipment, especially on the East Coast, if you're in Hawaii or in someplace warm, then you just need a pair of board shorts and maybe a shirt, and you're good to go. But when you live in a little bit of a colder climate or temperate climate, then we need 3'2s, 4'3s, 5'4s, 6'5s, boots, gloves, hoods.

It adds up, doesn't it?

It adds up. It definitely adds up. So after a while, it's like, "Yeah, you know what? I'm not going to do all of this." But we can get really deep into it because it's also the thought that it actually stems from even further than that, where a lot of people of color, historically and by historically, I mean way, way, way back like 300, 400 years ago, we were taught to fear water and taught to fear the ocean because a slave that could swim is a slave that can get away. So they were actually taught that the water is not good. The ocean is not good. The river, they said you cannot cross the river. So the last thing you need we're going to teach you how to do is swim. So when people come into the water and sometimes I walk to the beach if I have to park far away. I'm walking down with my surfboard in my hand and people look at me and, they're like, "Where are you going? What's that?" I was like, "I'm heading to the beach." "Hold on, you surf?" "Yes, I surf." "You sure?" "Yeah, I'm pretty sure. I would hope so. I'm heading down there with a surfboard under my arm and I'm planning to get into the water. So I would hope I surf." But it blows my mind. And I think this year, actually, we saw more and more people of color coming up into the lineup. And I think that part of it is because of there was a lot of press that happened around the paddle outs. So they did see that they were people of color and I'm purposely using people of color, not using black only because they were Asian, brown, black, etc. So there were definitely people, they saw more and more people of color out there and out in the lineup and surfing. I used to tell people that I don't want to be, when people ask me, "What's it like to be a black surfer?" And I used to say, "I don't want to be a black surfer. I just want to be a surfer."

True that, man. I feel the same way about the description of a human.


I'm not a white human. I'm a human, bro.


Yeah. We both love the water and the ocean and the joy that it brings. Our skin color doesn't mean anything.

It has nothing to do with it. Exactly.

Nothing to do with it. Yeah.

It should not be a deciding factor on whether you can surf or whether you can't surf. I had students who come out and they ask us all the time like is it safe to come down to Rockaway. Of course, it's safe. In my mind, I'm thinking are they asking me about sharks? Because that's usually what people jump to, of course, it's safe to be in Rockaway. They're like, "No, no, no." Well, because you guys are going out there to surf. And a little bit of history. Rockaway was primarily like in the 60s, it was going to be a white neighborhood, white blue-collar neighborhood. And I'm like, "No, I've pretty much lived there. So, you're fine. Rockaway's fine. There's no problem with Rockaway. The people are friendly, everybody's friendly. We get one or two people who just want to be gnarly and idiots but you should not let that upset your vibe when you're out in the water."

Yeah. It's interesting. I think I have to say that what happens in the water is a reflection of what happens on land. Right? So people that are grumpy or get in fights or they're selfish, they're that way on land, right? So if somebody is racist and they're that way on land, too, right? It's not the fact that they're in the water. And I love that you had white friends that stood up for you. So I think that's an important story to tell, is that there are bad apples in the barrel and that's the society we live in. So how do we move forward in a way that celebrates diversity, but also calls out that type of kind of ignorance, I would say, right?

Yeah, absolutely

So it's a really interesting story that you're telling because you're telling the story of America, right? And it's the story that you're seeing from a small corner of a pretty diverse place, right? I would say New York's like up there on diversity as far as some other places in the country. So even in a very diverse place, you're still going to have that type of behavior. So it's important to tell these stories. I'm a white dude and I want to hear these stories, right? Because when I paddle out, it's like I'm the guy that would stand up for you, right. Because it's never been about skin color. But I understand that other people, they've had generations of some kind of conditioning, right. And so that's the thing that needs to be discussed is how do we be sensitive to the fact that these people are the way they are, but they've been taught that for generations. That doesn't give them an excuse to be that way but at the same time--yeah, go ahead.

Yeah, I was gonna say, whenever I approach conversations with people, I don't expect them to all of a sudden light bulb go off and like, "Oh, yes, you're right. Absolutely." I know what's happening now because I understand that a lot of times it's coming from somewhere and it could have come from like you said, generations of believing something and going somewhere or thinking some things. And even now there are some people, even who may not in their minds, they may not be outright 100% racist. They're like I don't believe this, I don't believe it this way, and so on and so forth. But just little microaggressions that occur, it happens. I've had instances where I will paddle out with some friends of mine. I'm generally like I've said, I'm generally a very friendly guy so I don't care who you are, I will paddle pass somebody, if I have no idea who you are, it's the first I've seen you in the lineup, then I will greet you with "Hey, good morning. Aloha. Maayong buntag. How's everything going with you? What's your name again? Oh okay, great, Derek. Nice to meet you." But then we have these little microaggressions of people. I've heard it from other people before whether they mean it or not. And it's not just towards--it's about race, it's about gender. I've seen guys start to paddle for waves that somebody else, that a woman has the right of way on. And I actually heard them say before, "Oh, it's a girl. She's not going to get it. I'll just take it." And they'll just go on it. Or they got a weak paddle. "Don't worry about it. We'll just go." So little things like that. It's little microaggressions like that just usually and that's when I would call them out on it. Tough times like, "Dude, that wasn't cool. That was really not. You shouldn't have done that." But I think, for me, one of the story that I always tell people is when I was in Morocco last year in March and I was surfing in Morocco and this place, this spot called Imsouane, I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly, Imsouane. And it's a point break. It was just amazing waves. And the only problem I have with it is that all the waves were going the wrong way because I'm goofy-footed so the waves were going right. But I got over that pretty quickly. And after my surf session, I decided to talk a walk around the town and I walked past this wall and I took a picture of it. So there was some graffiti on the wall of a hand giving a chakra. And what struck me and honestly, Derek, it brought tears to my eyes, was that the color of the hand on the wall was the same color as my head.

Hmm. That's awesome.

And that's when it finally struck me and hit me. I'm like, hold up a second. I'm surfing in Africa.

Yeah, that's right.

I'm over here in Africa. I am surfing. I am in the motherland and I am surfing. I am where at least one-third of my ancestors came from and I am surfing here.


And it put a smile on my face and tears in my eyes and I came back to the US with that story. And I was telling people this and anyone that I've even told me and you can hear me, I'm getting all choked up right now. But everyone I'm told that story to, they see just how emotional it was for me, and that's why I try to encourage as many people as I can. It doesn't matter whether you're white, black, Asian, brown, Latino, Hispanic, whatever, if you can get into the ocean and you would get the community that's there and just build on the community until we all just one big community. Because I use the word "ohana" to describe the people that I surf with all the time because they really are my family.

Yeah, me too.

I think of them like my family. And they are in some place, in some ways closer than my family because most of them are not related to me by blood. So like you said, you would be the guy that would be out there defending me while I'm out there. And if that's not family, I don't know what is.

Yeah, true that. True that, man. So where do you think we need to go as a society or let's just say as a community of surfers like what needs to change or what is changing in your view? Are you optimistic about the future?

I'm very optimistic about the future, to tell you the truth. Because if you had ask me that question, I would say maybe May or June of 2020, I would have hung my head and told you, to be honest, I don't think so. I don't know what's going to happen. But I saw such a switch over the summer and it really gave me a sense of like there was a light that was turned on for people and people and everyone saw it. Yes, there are the outliers. Yes, there are still people who don't see it. Yes, there are people who refuse to see it because for whatever their reasons are. But it just became such a warm and friendly place. I mean, it was always a friendly place but it became even more inviting to the point where people are still talking to each other and we would go and we do the paddle out and people long afterwards like walking up to me and say, "Hey, you're the guy who was doing the paddle outs." "Yeah, that was me." "Oh, my God. I saw you." And so just really quickly, a photographer from Rolling Stone was there.


And he got a couple of pictures of the paddle out. I was at one of the pictures and I do not like my picture being taken. It's not something I hate. It's just like, "Oh, okay umm yeah." I don't know how to stand, don't know how to smile type of thing so all my friends are giving me flack about it. But a lot of people recognize me from the picture and they would come up and they just start having conversations with me about like what's it like, "What can I do? Are there any other society that I can donate my time? Or I have an old board, is there anybody I can give it to?" And I was like, "Yeah, dude. Absolutely. By all means, please, we want to help out as much as possible." I'm not going to refuse anyone trying to help. I'm not going to refuse anyone who is approaching us with light in their hearts and who really wants to help out. So I was very, very optimistic after seeing that and I think what we can do as a society of surfing is just continue to do what we're doing. I always tell people who don't surf, I know people look at surfers and they think that we're a bunch of slackers and we just hang around and eat burritos all day and just the longest word we have in our vocabulary is dudeeeeeeeeeee. But that's absolutely not true. Some of the most active, most people who are most involved with activism I know are surfers.


They're conservationalists, they're activists, they take care of the ocean, they take care of each other, they take care of the communities. So, yeah, just keep it going and just recognize that it's not just that one small community that you have. We're all connected.


If I travel out to somewhere else to surf, then I'm going to try to do something beneficial while I'm out there and then I'm going to leave. So I just want to leave a good footprint no matter where you go.

I have to admit, I did have a vegan burrito today, so there's one stereotype to fix.

Well, I am vegan, so yeah.

Oh, nice.

So I get that all the time.

Nice. Cool, man. That's really awesome. Let's switch gears a little bit and describe to me your first surfboard. Very first.

Oh wow. My first surfboard.

Yeah, the one you own, not the one you borrowed.

Yeah. My first, first surfboard. So my first surfboard was I got it, I can't believe I'm going to say this, I got it on Amazon.

Okay. Oh, sweet!

It was a Bic.

A Bic? Dude, I had a Bic at one point.

It was a Bic. That was my first surfboard ever and it was an 8' Bic. I had no clue about the volume or rocker or anything. All I know is and I'm quoting myself from back then, so it had three fins. So I'm good.

That was the early days to order a surfboard on Amazon. That's pretty good, bro. Yeah, that's awesome, man. So what's your favorite all-time surf trip? Maybe Morocco or any other place comes to mind?

Morocco was great because it was just life changing. And the food in Morocco, oh, my God. If anybody has a chance to, if anybody listening have a chance to go to Morocco to surf, definitely go. The food is amazing and the breaks are so great and the people are really friendly over there. So I love Morocco. I've done the pilgrimage to Bali at least once. So I've done a couple of pilgrimages to Bali. Like I said, I'm goofy-footed so Chicama was a good one for me.

Oh, dude. Chicama is such a good wave. Such a good wave.

So Chicama was a good one for me as well. I was humbled on the way because I thought that my paddle game was on point and I thought I was good. So I caught this wave, I rode it, I did some bottom turnings, I hit the lip, I just reached out to my longboard across the top to the nose. And I'm like, "Okay, well, I've done everything I need to know. I know how to do on this wave. What do I do next?"


And so I jumped off and I was like, "Oh, crap, now I need to paddle all the way back over there?" So I was humbled with my paddling. But I think those three are the ones that stick out in my mind and the most each for a different reason but yeah.

That's awesome. And the best wave you've ever surfed? Like the best session you've ever had.

Oh! The best session I ever had. Hmm. That actually would--it's hard to say.

I know, dude. It's a hard question. That's why I like it.

Yeah. Every single time I paddle back, I come out and I'm usually grinning from ear to ear. Every wave is different.

There's got to be one wave somewhere that you surfed on one of your trips.

I would have to say then the one that's most fresh in my mind right now was [inaudible 00:37:55]. I'm sorry, there's two. So the one was a wave I got when I was in Morocco. And at that point, I had caught it, it was a right and I started to go and there's this, at least to me, there's this energy in the desert and then there's energy in the ocean. And when you can be at a point with two of them connect, it's one of the most amazing things you can ever experience. And I caught this wave and I just go and I looked up and I saw the desert in front of me and I looked back and I just saw the ocean. I just dragged my hand to the ocean as I was going down the waves. And that was just one of the most serene moments ever for me. Everything including times just stop at that moment for me. And the second one was actually in Rockaway. I paddled out and it was actually this September, I paddled out and I had this 9' Ben Gravy foam top and I had to get to work. So I was like, "Oh, I'm going to take the foam top just so I can grab some waves and don't have to struggle." And it was three to five that day. And I caught this wave and I just went for it, and I paddled for it and I just tucked down and I got down to my knee and the barrel go and left on its front side. And I was just dragging my hand in the water as I was going and when I emerged from it, I heard the whole beach just go, "Ohhhhhh!"

The Ben Gravy barrel. Nice!

The Ben Gravy barrel. I think the reason why it was so epic to me was because a friend of mine was with me and he and I were sitting in the water and we felt the water change and we turned and we looked and we saw this wave heading towards us. So we both started paddling forward. I got ahead of him and he just started yelling to me, "Go, go, go, go". So there's nothing better when you can share a wave with your friends.


And so I got it. And when I paddled back out to him, I was just grinning from ear to ear. He looks at me, he goes, "Oh, thank God, you made it." So I'm like, "Hold up. What do you mean?" He said, "Dude, it was big. I got a wife and kids, so I figured better you than me." So we had a great laugh over that but yeah.

Nice. That's awesome, man. I really appreciate this conversation. We've touched on some deep topics that need to be discussed in a lot of different ways. And I really appreciate you for going there with me. We'll put all your social handles in the podcast, but is there somewhere in particular you want if people want to reach out and maybe help out in one of the ways that you discussed?

Oh yeah. The best way I think would be just to reach out to me directly, and based on where your interest lies, we can work there because like I said this summer, we've done a lot. There is, for example, we have Benny Surf's Collective, which works with LGBTQ surfers, LGBTQ plus surfers. So I've worked with them. There's Laru Beya who work with kids and surfers of color. Surf schools around who always donate their time. So there's lots of places and that's just in New York. And I've pretty much expanded now to the tri-state area and I'm looking for more and more to do. So we do as much as help as much as we can.

Dude, you're a busy guy, and I appreciate all that you're doing.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Yeah. All right. Take care. I'll see you at Rockaway.


I want to paddle out with you on a Ben Gravy.

Oh definitely. Whenever you're ready, let me know. I have one sitting here waiting, pineapples and all.

Thank you, man.

Thank you so much, Derek. I appreciate it. Take care.