Photo above Tom Remillard, stalefish. PHOTO / Clark
Where do you live? Somewhere safe? Are you okay leaving valuables in your car? Do you have bars on the windows of your house? You may take these things for granted without knowing it. South Africa is still a very untamed country. Apartheid just ended in the '90s. There's still a huge gap between the classes and the races. The rand isn't a strong currency. There's still a lot of struggle, but it is a land of beauty. From the desert dust of Kimberley, down to the sketchy town of Port Elizabeth, then across the coast to the unbelievable Jeffreys Bay to the jaw-dropping beauty of Cape Town—it's a mixture of places you feel like you might've seen in a daydream.-Blair Alley
Willis Kimbel is an all-day beer-drinking, smelly- footed beast. He's funny, laid-back, has some great slang and wild stories from growing up all over the world really (he lived on Bermuda for a bit). He played some great jams in the van, talked about his new home in Finland, and how he and his wife are looking forward to touring America living in his van. One of a kind.
This trip took place in October 2015, just a couple months after surfer Mick Fanning got bumped by a great white in Jeffreys Bay (aka J-Bay). Since we knew the famed surf spot was on our itinerary, as well as taking some dips in the ocean in Cape Town, great white shark talk was big in the van. Joe Pease, being from Australia and a surfer, has a pretty great fascination with them. We kept making bets on who would paddle out the farthest and/or the longest, but in reality, all we did was wade up to our waists. That water was too damn cold.
THE J-BAY SHITLOCK
In this modern world, people have peculiar phobias of certain natural elements—unidentified feces would definitely rank high on the list. By some zany twist of fate, the guesthouse we checked into across the street from Jeffreys Bay had a small chocolate chip–sized brown lump on Joe Pease's bathroom door slide lock. What the hell was it?! Could the previous tenant (some surfers no doubt) have actually left a little piece of poo on the lock?! It seemed ludicrous, but Joe was convinced that's what it was, and no one was brave enough to remove the micro turd. Upon our departure, Joe reported that the turd had dried up enough and fallen off the lock on its own. Joe didn't deserve that sort of harassment. He never used that bathroom the whole time we were there. First they go for Mick Fanning in the water, then they go for our Joe Pease in the shitter. J-Bay must have it out for Aussies.
In Port Elizabeth, we went to a township, aka shantytown, that had the first-ever shanty "shack." It's preserved with a very skateable bank and flatbar around it, and a history lesson and makeshift museum next to it. It was humbling and a little sketchy being fully immersed in this city that seemed to have a code all its own. We saw school children on their way to class, the local dudes tried our boards and warned us of a bad crew that was sizing us up. We shot photos of an old woman in front of her house and gave her a handful of coins. An experience none of us will soon forget. Once in Cape Town, the island you can see off the coast (especially from the hilltop barrier spot) is Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in prison for standing up to his government. South Africa's turbulent history was staring us in the face daily.
Dela was the MVP of this trip. He's a super positive happy hippie dude originally from Miami who lives in SF. He was super psyched to be seeing this strange country for the first time and went so damn hard at every spot. Even two or three multiple-hour sessions a day! I highly recommend taking him on any trip in the future.
MAKING THE COVER SKATEABLE
At the harborside skatepark in Port Elizabeth, the massive quarterpipe you see on the cover sat unsessioned next to a basketball court and with a six- inch-wide gutter in front of it. Apparently this side of the QP used to be the old skatepark, which the city had since moved to the other side and put the fence on top (that Willis lien to tailed) to separate the two. The QP was still great, but it had a harsh, curved run- up, and that damn gutter. Tom claimed a 50-50 on the fence, so we hit a hardware store for supplies and came back. The crew, led by Willis and Tom, went to work on a stellar cement fill job. We set off to return the next day, fingers crossed that it didn't rain and the 'crete would be dry enough. We were blessed by the African gods, as the spot was a go, and Willis and Tom pushed their asses off for well over an hour attacking the never- been-skated QP to rail. Tom couldn't pull off the 50-50, but Willis, with the perseverance of a superhero, got that beautiful lien to tail. Our crew made it happen together—what skating is all about. And the QP was left to the PE locals, who were pretty epic dudes as well.
Rodriguez was a common artist to be heard coming from our van. Watch the documentary Searching For Sugar Man if you haven't already. With the amount of kids we saw running around the streets of Cape Town to the water canals of Kimberley, "Street Boy" seemed like an appropriate song to play more than a few times. These kids didn't have money, but you could see the happiness in their faces. After two weeks in South Africa, it was nice to get home to our families, friends, and safe cities, but the things we saw and the experiences we had will be with us forever. We're already hoping to go back again this year.