Jamnesia: The Jamaican Surf Experience

Jamnesia: The Jamaican Surf Experience


My name is Inilek Wilmot.
I am a Jamaican surfer,also musician, songwriter, guitar player.My name is Icah Wilmot and I am a surfer,surf instructor, musician.Sometimes I do a little bit of acting too.My name is Elishama Beckford.shama_the_superman on InstagramMy name is Ivah Wilmot.I’m 17 years old.ivah_the_great on InstagramMy name is Ronley Lewis.Surfing was always a passion for me.My name is Garren Pryce. I’m 19 years old.I’m a surf instructor, I like to danceand I do surfing.Surfing in Jamaica actually started with fishermen,
from my perspective.When I was a youngster growing up
here on the beach in the 60’s,you had about half a dozen boats
’cause this was a legitimate fishing beach at the timeand boats went out regularly.This is back before most of the boatmen
had motors for their craft.They would just use the oars and paddles.And, the fact that this side of the island is so roughand we have so many rough days,many times the fishermen would have to go out.Sometimes most of them were setting fish traps, “fish pot”and, when the sea gets rough,
sometimes they can leave thembut sometimes if the sea is getting really rough
they have to go and bring them inor they would get damaged in the reefs, by the waves.And when the fishermen were coming in,Waves come in sets.
Waves don’t just break constantly.You’ll have some big ones coming in,
then you’ll have a few minutes10 minutes, 5-10 minutes when they’re smallerand then here comes another 4 or 5 big ones againand then another period of calm.So the fishermen, when they were coming inbecause of the nature of this beach,
pushing up their boats on the beach,there was a timing involved,
where you had to be able to get inand be at the edge of the beach
when there were no big waves coming,so you could actually push the boat
up on the beach,out of the reach of the big waveswhen the big waves came.So, you had some very skillful fishermen,who would anticipate the wavesand when the big ones were coming,they would position themselves
just outside of the breaking waves.And then as the last big wave would come in,they would paddle and actually catch the wave,and surf the wave in with their boats.And then get to the beach,
and that would be the last wave of the big waves.So that would be like, the most skillfull fishermen.And everybody would say,
“Wow, look at that!”And, us as kids, we would swim by the boatsas he was waiting for the right wave,we would swim beside the boat and
hold on to the back of the boatso when he caught the wave,
the boat would tow us in.So we got the idea of catching the wave.And we would swim out here as kidsand swim and catch the waves,
and bodysurf.And then after a while, those old canoesthat the people used to build
out of the cottonwood trees,we would go to the old ones
that were maybe rotted outand were derelict and pushed up on the beach.And we’d take a machete
and cut a small piece of wood,maybe 15 inches wide by about 2 and a half feet long.And we would lie on that on our bellys
and catch the waves.So that’s really where we started our surfing.Surfing began there for me personally.But over in Boston Bay,in Port Antonio, Portland.Port Antonio was one of the firstmajor tourist locations in the eastern
end of the island.It was very popular amongst the more well-to-dovisitors to our island.As you know, may movie stars have properties
in Portlandand Errol Flynn had properties over there.And so it was very popular.Blue Lagoon, and many attractions.And Boston Bay became a very popular beachbecause of its scenic beauty.But it also provided waves that were surfable.And the manner in which the waves broke,they broke on the outside, went over the reefand then died on the inside.So no matter how rough the sea gotthere was an inside area for swimming.So people would always go there to swim.And tourists got there and eventuallyone of these tourists who was able to surfrecognized that these were good surfing waves.And eventually someone arrived with a surfboardover there in the early 60’s and started surfing.On the south coast you had local guys
who got into surfing.Local guys from Kingston learned about surfing.One of them brought a surfboard from the Statesand the other surfers got old refrigerator foam,out of the old wrecked refrigerator,and got old fiber glass draperyand bought boat resin from the boat yardand constructed their own surfboardsusing that real surfboard as the model.And surfing began on the south coast.And then I started seeing these surferscoming to the beach and surfing here.This wasn’t their main surfing beach,they surfed at other beaches.But because this was a popular beachwhen they were finished surfing
they’d come here and hang out,drink a beer, that sort of thing.And if the waves were really bigthey would proably paddle out
and catch some small ones here.’cause when it was really big
we’d get some small nice waves coming in here.And they would surf here,and I was witness to that.And eventually one of them ended up lending me a boardand when they were leaving,
one of them was actually in college in the States,and he came down for the summer
and was camping on the beach with his surfboards.And when he went back he sold me one,and that’s basically how I started.That was my first surfboard of my ownand that was probably about 1974 or so.called the Myrtle Bank. It’s no longer there.It’s right on the waterfront next to the bank downtown,the central bank downtown.Where now all that remains is a line of royal palm treesgoing down towards the sea, towards the harbour.And that used to be one of
the most prestigious hotels in Kingston.And I have an old Jamaica Tourist Guide
that was put out by the Ministry of Tourism.probably one of the first ones they put out.And it mentions that Myrtle Bank hotelprovided a launch that would take people
across the harbour to the palisadoesto go surf bathing.And in those days surf bathing was
referring to interacting with the waves,whether on surfboards, or bodysurfing or bodyboarding.So that was the earliest mentionand that book was published in 1912.So we have a very long history
if you want to look at it in terms of that.We have a very long history of surfing.So generally we can put a date out of
say 1911, 1910 maybe,when the first interaction with the surf
was recorded or noted.And for myself I would say the late 60’s
and my first surfboard 1974.I started surfing at around age 7 I thinkand then I started surfing seriously at about age 9.That’s when I started surfing a lot.I started surfing way back when I was probably about 6.I don’t remember exactly when I startedbut I just know that me and my brothers
started around the same time,when one brother was about 7, I was about 6,
and my other brother was about 8.So it’s somewhere around that timeand I’ve been hooked on surfing ever since.I’ve been surfing for 11 years, since I was 6.
I’m 17 now.I’ve really been surfing seriously
for the past 6 or so years,and travelling and surfing with these guys
for a very long time.To tell you the truth I don’t really remember
when I started surfing.But some people have told me 2 and a half
and from different people, 4 years old.But I really remember surfing seriously at maybe 10.
I’m 17 now, so 7 years ago.I started surfing when I was at least 16.I’ve been surfing for like 10 years now, from I was 9.I met Shama on the beach surfing one day
and he introduced me to surfing,Shama and his sister.So I started to surf from thereand then I met the Wilmot family and that was it.Surfing is a very addictive sport.So when we started to surf, or when I started to surfwe used to do a lot of other extra-curricular activities.We used to do swimming, we did tae kwon do,
football, that kind of stuff.When we started surfing we basically
stopped doing everything elseand we tried to surf as much as we could.We surfed like, at least, as much as,
during school time, we surfed like 14 times a week.That’s twice a day.During the summer, like 28 times a week.4 times per day.It’s a very addictive sport so it kind of takes over your life
in an obsessive kind of way.I used to be involved in lots of other sports.I played cricket, I was a competitive swimmer,
I swam for YMCA Speedos.I was very much into table tennis as welland when I started surfing I just virtually
lost all interest in every other sport.I just wanted to surf.Nothing could hold a candle to the sport
of surfing where I was concerned,in terms of what a sport gave you
as a youngster growing up.But it was a very lonely sport at the timebecause there were so few of us doing it.There wasn’t a community of surfers.It was me and one friend from Copa Cabana
surfing here regularly.On the island there may have been
less than 20 surfers at the time.So it was a very lonely sport.And when I grew up and started having kids of my ownand taught them to surf and saw
how much they were getting into sports.They used to do tae kwon do and other sporting activitiesand I realized that now on Saturdays
they had to go to tae kwan doand the waves were really good on Saturdaysand they were like
“I don’t wanna go, I want to go surf!”and I could identify with that sentiment.And I said, why are we sending them to tae kwon do?It’s mainly because all children benefit
from organized sporting activity.It’s not just about the enjoyment they receive.It’s the camaraderie.It’s learning to deal with the competitive aspect of sports.It’s learning about training and the importance ofhow you build your career if you take it seriously,your physical abilities,and analyzing your performances and that sort of thing.Wherein if you’re just surfing for fun
you don’t think about that sort of thing.So I realized that we needed some kind of
organization in the sport.And I said, what we would have to do
is form an Associationthat could have regular events,that could have a national seriesthat could declare a national Junior,or Open, or Women’s champion every year,and have kids trying their bestto really attain their utmost in the sport.And have records that people can go backand a history that is documented.So you can say who was the National Champion in 2002and it would be recorded and there
was somewhere you could find that out.And kids would have something to strive for.So it was really out of the recognition that
my kids being involved in surfing,I didn’t want them to just be involved in a surf
that was going to turn outthe proverbial “beach bum” then.I wanted them to go through surfing
and at the end of it,be able to have some kind of career,
if they so chose to do.And I looked into the international community of surfingand realized how many job options there are
in the sport of surfing.It’s not just whether you’re the best surfer
and you can win a competition.There are coaches. There are judges.There are contest organizers.
There are people who run surf shops.There are surfboard manufacturers
and all the aspects of surfboard manufacturing,from the creation of the board
and the shaping of the board.When a surfboard is made usually at least 3 people
are involved in the manufacturing of the board.The shaper and the laminator,and the person who puts in the hardware
on the boards and that sort of thing.There is the graphic artist
who does the designs on the boards.There is clothing that’s affiliated with surfing:
surf brands.There’s jewelry, there’s slippers,there’s sunglasses, there’s hats.There’s all sorts of products associated with the thingand I realized that this is a very huge industry.So I said, let’s form the Association.Let’s have a voice for surfers in Jamaica.Let’s be able to approach the governmentand say these are some of the things
that need to be in place to support surfing in Jamaica.And as a result, we have the Jamaica Surfing Association.I grew up and back when you’re
younger and learning how to surf,your dream is to do what you love to do for a living.And from when I was 6 years old
surfing was what we did.Before we started surfing we used to do
a whole other bunch of stuffbut then once we started surfing everything just kind of
got put to the side and we just surfed only.From then, I decided that if I could do this for a living,if I could just surf and have fun for a living,
that would be my dream job.So from ever since I wanted to do it.But it never really seemed feasible
until when I finished high schooland I went to university.In, I think, my second or third year in university,I was skateboarding and I fell and broke my femur.I broke my leg and it’s like I was…I couldn’t walk for four monthsand I had to be in bed sitting around,
can’t do anything at all.And that’s when I made up my mind
that even if I’m going to starve,I’m going to do what I love doing for the rest of my life
or for as long as I can do it.So that’s when I really made up my mindto start saying “I’m just going to surf”
and just do that.And the next year I just went up to the surf trade show
that they have in Floridaand I pretty much just spoke with a bunch of companies,got some of them interested in working with meand I just kind of took it from there.So as soon as I graduated, I just hit the roadand started travelling and surfing, competing and everything.Well, I’ve had thoughts about being a
professional surfer and it’s definitely an option.But I’m trying to keep my options open at this point.Trying a bit of everything to see what
really meshes with my character.Professional surfing is something that I did considerbut I don’t really do that well in contests.So I’d like to just travel and take pictures,travel with photographers and different surfers.Hopefully get it published in magazinesand then the sponsors will give you money for having
their sponsor’s sticker on your board in a magazine.So hopefully I’ll get money from that
when I do get out there in the surfing world.Well actually if I could take surfing to the next levelit would actually be like getting a couple sponsors,go do some contests in the Caribbean.I’d go there and compete, probably do some photoshoots.I’ll never know. Stuff like that,
that would be all good ’cause doing something I love,I could put in all the effort I need to put in
and stay right there and be on top.I’d like to reach very far in surfingbut I’m just doing what I can do nowand anywhere it extends I’ll definitely be there as wellto represent as a Jamaican surfer just the same.The Makka Pro contest of course
was another stage of the development.We started with local events until we got to the point wherewe were looking at the benefits that we
had achieved from local events.At the time my kids were at the top of the ladderin terms of the surfing performancesand they got a lot of exposure and recognition
as being the top performers in surfing.But I realized that being Jamaica’s Champion,when you look at it on a worldwide level
and the international surfing community,being a Jamaican Champion means nothing.That’s not like being Hawaii’s Championor Australian Champion.Being a Jamaican Champion,
that doesn’t say anything for your career.Nobody knows what surfing in Jamaica is,
what being the Champion means,what is the standard of surfing in Jamaica.Even if you’re an excellent surfer,it’s very difficult to come and not have that background
surfing in somewhere.Thats why you’ll hear Icah say
he needs to go abroad to compete,to stay current so people hear his name.Winning in Jamaica is not going to keep his name
current in the surf community abroad.He’s going to have to win a contestor place in the semi finals or quarter finalsor go through 10 heats in an event in order
to be recognized as a really good surfer.So, I was looking at it and saying,how can we improve the standing of our local surfers?And I said, if we had an international event herethat could attract international surfers,and if we could have that event
associated with other Caribbean events,and if we could create a tour in the Caribbean
for the professional surfers,so that at the end of the year
we could declare a Caribbean Champion,this will be a lot more in the world.You’re the Barbados Champion
and you’re the Caribbean Champion.You’re the Jamaican Champion
and the Caribbean Champion.It would give them another level up,in terms of the tiers that they could
ascend towards more recognition.So that was the basic concept behind why
we would want to develop a professional event in Jamaica.So that’s where the idea was really coming from.Well normally I compete in the local contests
but we don’t have as much as we used to.So I compete in the Makka Pro,and I passed one heat
and the next one I kind of got nervous so I dropped out.I didn’t really feel bad. I was actually happy to compete,to show people that there are surfers
and we love it even if we win or lose.Yeah, it was pretty fun for me as well.I compete in the Makka ProLast year I was the Junior Championand this year I came second in the Juniors
and third in the Open,because it was the wave selection.I didn’t get the better waves out there in the waterand Shama, he did get the better waves,so he won over me.This year has really been one of those years
that I’ve been working really hard.I’ve been training a lot in my backyard’cause I have waves right behind my house,and every evening after school
I try to make time for surfing.So I get a lot of sessions in.The national events, I managed to get first placein the Opens and the Juniors as well.So that was a good start to the yearand then finishing off with Makka Pro.So I’m feeling very good about that
and with my performances leading up to now.Jamnesia is our family run little business here.We teach surfing.In the summer we run a little surf camp for kidsand we also do a live music thing here every other Saturday.This surfing school that, basically I head the charge onthe surfing school and teaching surfing.It’s something I do. When I’m not competing, I usually just teach
because I love surfing so much.And when you teach someone how to surf
and they stand up on the board for the first timeand you see the joy and the excitement that they get,it just brings back the whole love that you have
for the sport that much more.And so that’s why when I’m not competing
and I’m not travellingI’m either here teaching or I actually teach also for
a couple months in the Virgin Islands in the winter time.So I do a couple of months there,I do a couple of months hereand then I travel for the rest of the year
and just surf and compete.We started teaching from years agobecause in our area there’s not that much things to do.We grew up, and seeing kids around us growing up,and kind of getting into the wrong crowd and stuff,where we had surfing to kind of keep us and they didn’t.So they kind of went off into a different tangentand some of them got mixed up in other stuff
and kind of messed up lives and stuff.Where because we were surfing we focused more on surfing.We were a lot more conscious of“oh, lets not go out on the road” and
“let’s not go do that”Let’s just sit here, keep fit, keep active.When there are waves we’ll go surfingand when there aren’t waves we’ll fix our surfboardsor try to train to get better so that
when the waves do come backwe’ll be even better than we were the last time.So with that whole aspect of surfing
where it kind of saved our livesand kept us in the right path,we started teaching kids how to surf.Surfing is really good, really healthy sport.It keeps you fit, keeps you aware of the environment.And that’s what we need here nowadaysbecause a lot of people don’t realize the impact
that man has on the environment.’cause I mean, we go to the beach and we surf everydayand going to the beach every single day,there’s thousands of plastic bottles
on the beach.And even if we clean up,we clean up and we get 20 odd garbage bags load
of plastic off the beachand in another month it’s full again.And surfing keeps you aware of that stuff.So apart from it being really fun
and it keeps you really fit and healthy,it gets you more in tune with the environment.And as a surfer you start to see that
and start to get into that.To be a part of surfing in Jamaica,
it’s kind of new to most Jamaicans.And over the past couple of years,
Jamaican surfing has been seen globally.Jamaica has been seen as a surf destination globally,
over the past couple of years.So we’ve been getting some recognition
where surfing is concerned.And we have some of the best surfers.You know the high quality surfing?So, yeah, it’s good.As far as surfing waves are concerned,Jamaica is up there.
Like in the world, like really good waves.We get waves here throughout the whole yearwhereas most of the more popular
destinations for surfing,they get waves for like just the winter season,or a few waves in the summer or
the best time is like between July and Novemberand then the rest of the year is like really small.While here we have waves all year.Pretty much you can come to the beach
almost any day of the yearand you’ll at least have a wave like 3-4 feetwhich is good enough to surf on,
good enough to have some nice fun on.And the quality of waves is really good.We have a lot of really world class waves out here.We lost one of our best waves in Hurricane Ivan
way back like 10 years ago I thinkAnd that wave was was like,
hands down one of the best waves I’ve ever surfed.But we still have a whole lot of really good spotsand the different types of waves,
the variety we have here is really good.We have waves for learners,
we have waves for advanced surferswe have everything you might want.And it’s really consistent. That’s the best part about it.So you can go surf whenever you want to surfas opposed to surfing for 4 months out of the yearand then sitting down and waiting
for surf the rest of the year.So that’s the benefit of surfing here.Well, in 5 years Ivah the Great
will probably be a legendin Jamaican surfing, in the history booksas one of the icons or maybe not.But you can always shoot for the stars.Maybe I’ll be one of the world’s better known surfersfrom Jamaica, “Rasta Kid”.Who knows, the possibilities are endless.But I’m not really sure about the contests.
Maybe by then I’ll get better in contestsand then I’ll start beating everybody.And you’ll hear about me from like,
the top surfer from the Caribbean or whatever.For the next couple of years that’s my plan:
I surf, I compete, I traveland just try to do as best as I can in competitonsand run this little road and see
how long I can keep doing it.Then after a while, I’ve been teaching surfing as I said,which is slowly starting to look a bit
more feasible for me.So when I kind of retire from competing,
or competing full time,I can do more teaching and get more kids involved.Because the more kids we have involved in surfing
the bigger the sport’s going to get.And then the more support the sport’s
going to get locally.So, say if someone wants to take surfing as a professionthe way I did, I had to go outside of Jamaica and
get support from companies in the states and that kinda stuffto help support me for my competing and travelling
and doing my stuff.Whereas someone in Jamaica
in maybe another couple of yearsthe companies here will start to realize that,
hey, surfing is feasible. We can market this really well.And we have better waves than
a lot of other places in the world.We have more consistent waves than many places.Like, Jamaica gets more consistentand bigger and better waves most of the timethan even California.And California is like the “mecca” for surfing
and we have better waves than them.So the more people start to realize that
and put more support into the sportthen being a professional surfer in Jamaica or from Jamaicadoing it worldwide would be more feasible.So for me, I’ve just been kind of doing it
“hand-to-mouth”just kind of “ban mi belly” and
do what I love doing because I love doing it.But it’s slowly growing and maybe
a little more support in the next couple of yearsit will get where it’s going.Jamaica having so much surf around
the eastern seaboardwe should take advantage of this
because our eastern seaboard is virtually undeveloped.All our surfing potential has been maximizedor has been taken advantage of in
the western end of the island.Montego-Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, Falmouth,
all those places are developing a tourism prouct.To think of developing a tourism product
in the eastern end of the islandespecially in a parish like, say, St. Thomaswhere there is virtually nothing in terms of infrastructure
to support a toursim industry.There is not the infrastructure.So thinking of what do you do for a parish like Portland?Well surf tourism is the perfect thing.Because surf tourists,
unlike other tourists that we cater to,are not coming here to have an all inclusive thingthat they pay $1500 per person
and they get a week with everything includedand they just hang out at the beach, drink at the bar.That’s not a surfer’s vacation.A surfer wants to ride waves
and waves are not created in a pool,where you turn the thing on
and you pay ten dollars to ride a wave.You have to wait for the ocean and nature
to create the waves and present them to you.So when you’re travelling to a country
your best bet is to maximize your potential for scoring,As surfers call it, scoring,
meaning being there when the waves are there.So you want to be able to spend
an extended amount of timein the environment, on the island,
at the location where the waves are.So tourists who travel for surf
tend to spend a long time.Their average trip lengths are over 10 days all the while.Not weekend trips.
They don’t do that sort of thing.They want to eat locally.They want to interact locally.They want to stay in hostels.They want to bring their tent
and camp in the back of somebody’s yardwho lives close to the surf.They want to share dinner with the family
they are staying with,develop a relationship,
come back year after year after year,bring their friends.And we’ve seen where this has developed in
many countries around the worldand bolstered their economies greatly.Like take for example Peru,
who has nationalized all their coastline nowand so private enterprises cannot own their coastline
anywhere around where waves are breaking.We should so something like that in Jamaica
to secure our surf breaksso nobody can just buy the land adjacent to it
and then have a monopoly on it.So stuff like that needs to be done.But when you see what other countries have done,Peru’s tourism contribution from surfing went from
0.5% to 14% of their tourism incomein the space of about 4 years
just because they put effort into it.And it wasn’t because they built
skyrise hotels along the coasts.All they did was support local people.
They fixed the place, fixed the roads.They made sure water supply was good in the area.
There was electricity.There was a bus running through these places.They encouraged local taxi owners to
get their thing registered.And they encouraged people to make stalls
where surfers could get food afterthey were finished surfing.Hang out at little bars,
little hostels along the beachfront.And that would be perfect for our end of the island
where we don’t have a lot of infrastructureand we don’t have a lot of capital
to invest in major infrastructure.My name is Ishack Wilmot. I’m the eldest brother
or the eldest Wilmot boy.One the best experiences in surfing for me
was this one time I almost drowned but I didn’t drown.
So that was pretty cool.I’m expecting them to take it further‘because they’re better than me when I was at their age.So hopefully they will rep’ it hardand up there with Jamaica’s name same way.

Antonio Breitenberg

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18 thoughts on “Jamnesia: The Jamaican Surf Experience

  1. Gk_Kanonen says:

    wow , thank you for sharing this video

  2. Exit17surfer says:

    Great Video!

  3. Melissa Gagnon says:

    how much does it cost for a surfing lession

  4. Zorgoon says:

    When I go to Jamaica I want to drop by Jamnesia! Once I get body boarding down, I want to at least TRY surfing. And if not, bodyboard those waves if I get good enough. This was a superb mini doc but it would've been nice to see the girl surfers rather than avoid filming them. There seemed to be no problem showing the random blonde girl's face. Why not the girl next to her? Was Imani Wilmot too busy? What about Icah's wife? Interesting…

  5. Andrene Peterson says:

    Amazing πŸ˜‰ love this video

  6. Ty Ajani says:

    . Love, unity, oppression and abjection, these are the circumstances that dictate how complete our lives are. Within the many paths of the righteous we are surrounded by the iniquities of greed. Despite all the traumas and trials we must never lose sight of some fertility found at the bottom of our blues. www.suncreed.com Life-Surf.

  7. MimiMillerTv says:

    Great Documentary.. I'm so excited to come now.. will be planning a trip with friends real soon.. Thank you for this

  8. Sheree Bent says:

    Pretty amazing. So eye opening.

  9. Finn says:

    really good. a positive beautiful thing

  10. ludibrzypop says:

    _m/

  11. Toa_Tiki says:

    So awesome! Love this!πŸ€™πŸΎπŸ€™πŸΎπŸ€™πŸΎπŸŒŠπŸ„πŸΎβ€β™‚οΈ

  12. I Luv Home and Gardens says:

    I've just discovered this film… This is huge with so much potential angles and Billy Wilmot knows what he talkig about. I wish you every success, in fact whats happening now and is there anything I/we can do to help?

  13. Erika Miller says:

    How can we donate?

  14. Johnny Sawyer says:

    Jamaica has more consistent waves than California… WHAT!? Haha.. That Ganja must be really good? πŸ˜‚

  15. Kufunya Ife says:

    I am going to visit I love Surfing but always wanted to learn ~ I love the oneness within the water

  16. Ras Kitchen says:

    Been coming to Jamaica for almost 10 years, Im still surprised at the quality of some of the waves the island has to offer! Big up Jamnesia

  17. Richard Brown says:

    I would like to to hang with the old dude and go longboard those waves .

  18. Ms. S McCreath says:

    This was very informative, JA is doin it. Super cool and enlightening to see, just redid our family itinerary to make sure we stop by their Surf School.

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