Stab Magazine | Jamaica's Next Gen of Soul Rebels

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Jamaica’s Next Gen of Soul Rebels

Meet Shama Beckford and Ivah Wilmot, Jamaica’s West Coast connection.

style // Sep 23, 2017
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

“There is nothing happening on earth today that is a coincidence.” – Peter Tosh

Stripping the wax off his board, Ivah Wilmot surveys the lineup at T Street. It’s small, maybe waist high, but Kalani Robb is out modeling wetsuits and taking the top off a few reforms. A lone photographer snaps frames.

Shama Beckford watches from the bluff, transfixed on the scene while pulling a red Hurley wetsuit right side out. The godfather of Jamaican surfing and Ivah’s dad, Billy Mystic, watches over the two boys, dreads hanging down his back, a pair of quarters between his fingers to feed the meter. This tight contingent of Jamaicans are in town to make shit happen—and they’re making all the right moves.  

Kalani comes in after a couple more waves. “You guys haven’t crashed my truck yet?” he jokes with Shama. A longtime friend, he lent them his spare Toyota Tacoma while they’re here. 

“No, mon. I just filled da tank up. It takes diesel, right?” answers Shama with a straight face. 

Kalani’s cherub grin disappears. “You didn’t put diesel in it?”

Shama laughs, “Got you, mon!” 

“I even taught dem how to get on da freeway,” boasts proud pop Billy. “I told dem, find the slowest car an’ try an’ catch it.”

The island banter is non-stop and absolutely hilarious, but eventually Kalani has to get home to the wife and kids. Shama and Ivah paddle out. The stoke level far exceeds the quality of the waves. They catch every ripple, blow tail, slide fins, pop frontside punts, looking every bit at home at this epicenter of progressive surfing. They’ve been in town for about two weeks and have two more weeks left on their trip. It’s more like a mission from Jah than a surf trip.

“I’ve been meeting with a bunch of companies here, trying to learn as much as I can, an’ meet as many people as I can—see how everyting works, ya know?” explains 25-year-old Ivah while out in the water. He surfs with a timeless style a la Dave Rastovich. 

Shama, only 21, has been riding for Hurley for the last year and has other ambitions. “I’m going to start doing da QS next year,” he says. “I’m going to try an’ do a few comps in Florida an’ the Caribbean an’ see how it goes.”

Surfing’s not new in Jamaica. Billy Mystic famously first started riding waves back in the ‘70s. The surf world fell in love with island when now-defunct Insight first ran ads of the Wilmot crew, around the turn of the century. But growing the sport in idyllic Bull Bay, about 15 minutes outside of Kingston on the south side of the island, has had its challenges.

The biggest hurdle’s been getting boards to ride. Two years ago, the Gudauskas brothers ran a board drive through their Positive Vibe Warrior Foundation to collect and bring boards to Jamaica. It was a huge success with a shipping container full of boards landing in country, but if the sport is really going to grow and evolve sustainability’s the name of the game. 

“I want learn to shape,” says Ivah. At present, there are no domestic shapers in Jamaica. “I tink dat’s da single biggest ting holding da surfers here back.”

Shama chimes in, “We have more boards now, but it’s da consistency, being able to refine what you’re riding, dat would make a big difference.”

For a QS hopeful like Shama being able to work through kinks in his equipment could make or break his future. He undoubtedly has the talent to rise-up, but to smooth out the kinks in his armor he would benefit from dialing in not just one board, but entire quivers. Jumping from a 5’7” quad to a 6’2” thruster’s a challenge for anyone, let alone in a heat.

“Ivah won’t even ride a board for months because he’s scared of dinging it,” ribs Shama. 

Together, Ivah and Shama embody how Jamaica has moved the sport forward. Shama is intent on making a name for himself on the competitive scene. A contest win or two could transform him from beach rat to legit sports hero on the small island nation. Meanwhile, Ivah’s more of the creative, free surfing type. But also has an astute business sense.  

“I’ve been meeting with brands like Electric and Roark and they’ve been asking me what I want to do,” he says, seemingly surprised that people are picking up on his exceptionally good vibes.

Any surf brand would be smart to have him share his stories. The surf industry is thirsting for real characters right now, and Ivah the Great (as reads his Instagram handle) is just that. Handsome and articulate, an artist, musician and very capable surfer, one gets the feeling that he could go anywhere in the world, strike up a conversation and make friends. That translates into good content. And as far as being an ambassador for a surf-stoked brand, it’s hard to imagine a character better suited for the job. 

“Someday we would like to start a home-grown Jamaican brand,” adds Billy. From fins to surfboards, traction pads to tees, he sees the opportunity for a brand that would allow Jamaican surfers to put their ingenuity and talents to good use. It would also free them from being solely dependent on big brands like Hurley, Volcom or Billabong, and donated surf gear. Instead, a locally based company could provide jobs and income for some of the resident wave-riders as well as a steady, dready flow of goods for the locals. With the right business plan, the commercial upside and marketability is obvious. 

Look no further than Usain Bolt to see how high an athlete from Jamaica can rise. The days of viewing the surf scene there as an anomaly akin to a Jamaican bobsled team are over. There’s no snow in Jamaica, but there is surf—really good surf. As Ivah, Shama and the next generation picks up the original rhythms that Billy laid down, the future is pulsing with positive energy.

“I told dem, I’m getting too old for dis shit,” jokes Billy. “In 20 years, I’m going to be an 80-year-old mon, and they’re going to be 40, coaching kids and running businesses. Dat’s the future I see for surfing in Jamaica.”


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