If you grew up in the ’90s, the name Sal Masekela is a familiar one, as the journalist has long-been the face of action sports media for the past 30 years.
But Sal Masekela has grown his personal and professional life beyond just media, as he’s expanded into entrepreneurship, mentorship and film production. As the son of famed South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela, Sal has spent much of his life spreading his heritage and telling the story of his roots.
His latest venture, surf brand Mami Wata, is another example of his love for African culture coming through.
The term “Mami Wata” translates to “Mother Water” (or “Mother Ocean”), and represents Sal Masekela’s vision for the brand, which celebrates African surf culture, all while on a mission to create jobs, grow economies and support youth surf therapy groups all across Africa.
Following the launch of Mami Wata and the mission the company has in place, InsideHook sat down with Sal Masekela to discuss the vision behind the brand, the surf culture in Africa, and his love for the sport of surfing.
On how Mami Wata all came together, and how Sal Masekela became involved…
“A friend of mine named Maria McCoy — this dope South African footwear designer who knows how much I love surfing — was like, ‘Yo, you need to meet these kids in Cape Town, they’re doing something that I think that you will be blown away by.’
“We started talking and really quickly I was like, “Yo, this is dope. I can’t believe that it’s only here. This would be amazing in America.” Shortly thereafter, they brought me on as a co-founder and I just started helping right off the bat, growing the brand.”
On particular surf destinations in Africa that Masekela feels deserve more shine or awareness…
“Outside of South Africa, which is traditionally been known through the white gaze of surfing, and the attractiveness obviously of what Morocco has to offer in the winters, all of the conversation about surfing in those places has been about the waves — not about the people, not about what the culture looks like and feels like there, and how it influences the whole.
“We give most of the credit in terms of influence — when it comes to the culture — to Southern California, Southern Australia. And I don’t even think we give enough to Hawaii and Polynesia, or even Southeast Asia. We talk about the waves, but those places don’t have as much opportunity to drive the bigger conversation of what the culture looks like, right? The aspirational part, this other lifestyle end of it.”
On the importance of surfing in his own life, and how it helped shape Sal Masekela with different struggles…
“For me, as a teenager, it for sure saved my life. When I think of the things that I was struggling with and the angst that I was carrying, and identity shit that I was trying to figure out, family stuff, etc., it was the one place where I could go and just be so … even.
“The idea that what was taking place on land was just completely not relevant. It’s also this dance between joy and survival. And relationship — you have to build relationship with the ocean, and by building relationship with the ocean, you in turn build new relationship with yourself.”
On what makes surfing so universally therapeutic…
“I believe it’s deeper than physical. I think it’s deeply spiritual. I think it’s deeply spiritual, on a different frequency.
“I went to church three times a week from the time that I was five years old. And when I stood up on a surfboard for the first time when I was almost 17, that was the first time that I felt a connection to whatever God might be. That was the most spiritual experience that I have had to date. And it completely changed the trajectory and direction of my life.
“Like I got out of the water, I moved five degrees this way, and I went here when I was going to be here and eventually I was out of frame and on a new plane. I think that’s what it does. And I think each person receives that and connects with it — with whatever their energetic frequency is — differently.
“It brings people peace. If you’re struggling, if you come from a life of struggle, unsurety, identity … the stories are always the same. People are like, ‘Yo, this is where I come for peace.'”
To read the full InsideHook interview with Sal Masekela, click here.