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AFRICA Transcendental Memories of a Surf Rebel

by Michael Hynson & Donna Klaasen Jost All images courtesy Bruce Brown Films, LLC.


e barely had time to get our feet wet on our first stops in Africa. We were a few days in Senegal,

the same with Ghana. Bruce’s $50,000 budget didn’t allow us to hang in one place too long. Our main destination from the beginning of

the trip was Cape Town, South Africa. It took us a week to fly the two thousand miles down the west coast and across the continent. Talk about extremes. We went from Ghana where we taught a chief and his villagers how to surf to a full-on political revolution in Nairobi, Kenya, then twenty-four hours later we found ourselves standing eight hundred feet above a rocky beach at the Cape of Good Hope, smack dab in between the Atlantic and In- dian Oceans. Did you know you can get from one side of the country to the other in Cape Town in about an hour and that there is ten degrees difference in temperature where the two oceans collide? Te cold currents on the west coast that come up from the Antarctic merge with the tropical currents coming down from the equator on the east coast. Tere were also some gnarly winds standing on the edge of that cliff, must have been thirty/forty miles an hour. Tey blew us all to shit. When Bruce wanted to film the two of us standing together I could tell Robert was nervous about getting too near the edge. So I started inching my way closer just to freak him out. I think he thought


the wind was going to blow him over into the drink. You can’t blame the guy for being scared. Trying to navigate a surfoard in these icy waters would send you off on a jet stream bound for Europe. I sure didn’t want to imag- ine that. So far Cape

Town was the highlight


our trip. Tere were


tall buildings, and even car dea ler s hips. Te South Af- ricans them- selves were very proud


Taking as much pride in their country as we do in America, they descended from British and Dutch set- tlers and arrived about the same time the pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock. I made the mistake of asking a few locals if they were Eng- lish or Dutch. I was immediately corrected, they weren’t either. Tey were South African. Coming from the U.S. and the civil rights

movement, we all had a problem with apart- heid. Te government’s defense was that they

Ambassador Hynson, Ghana, Africa 1963

took care of the Blacks and didn’t mess with the way they lived. If they wanted to work in town they could. Tey were paid a fair wage plus there was free medical for everyone. Tey just had certain rules to live by, one of them being that they had to be off the streets and back in their homes


s u n d own . I guess the South Af- rican Gov- ernment felt they


were the

right thing. J o h n

Whitmore was


contact in Cape Town. John was a

strong, tan, middle-aged guy, at least thirty, with a crew cut. He was the dude Metz made surfoards with four years before. John was also the VW distributor for the entire country and the only surfoard manufacturer in Cape Town. He was so popular with the local surfers who were hungry for any information about surfing that he could have been mayor. We figured this out when he met us at the airport

with a motorcade of VW bugs double-stacked with surfoards. John was also our ambassador. He took

us into his home and hooked us up to crash with friends. We never stayed in a hotel once in Cape Town. He also lined up surf spots and gave us a tour of every decent swell around. Te South African surfers were really curious about our boards so wherever we went they’d hear about it ahead of time and show up just to watch. If it wasn’t happening right away the four of us and a convoy of VWs would cruise down the two-lane country roads, passing el- ephants and zebras on our way to the beach. Baboons were the most difficult to get around. Tey were known to throw rocks and jump on cars, backing traffic up a hundred yards or so. No problem, we’d just take a detour through the bush. On November 22, 1963, we were at a party

in Cape Town and listening to music on the radio when we heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Television hadn’t gotten to South Africa yet, so what little information we got was sketchy. First the dee- jay said that Kennedy was dead. Twenty min- utes later, another news flash reported he was shot but supposedly okay, then the reporter came back a third time and said the first report turned out to be true. We didn’t know any- thing about shots being fired from a school-

Mike Hynson, Cape St. Francis

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