The Impact Of Bob Marley’s Music On Surf-And-Skate Culture
“You can meet me where the music meets the ocean.” Bob Marley
On September 4, 2020, Ride Natty Ride, episode six of Bob Marley’s ‘Legacy’ 12-part documentary series was aired, featuring a stunning visual celebration of reggae legend Bob Marley and his uplifting music, how it’s influenced the surf and skateboarding community globally, and how notable Jamaicans got their start in the adventurous outdoor activities.
The 30-minutes Ride Natty Ride video featured interviews with the likes of legendary surfer Billy “Mystic” Wilmot – lead singer of Mystic Revealers and owner of the Jamnesia Surf Camp, located in Bull Bay, Jamaica, Shama “Superman” Beckford, Ivah Wilmot, Kaya Wheeler, Froggboss WellRaggedy and Bob Marley’s friend and art director at Tuff Gong, Neville Garrick.
The wave fever took hold in Jamaica in the early 70s, but at the time, surfing was more about finding joy and connecting with nature rather than finding the biggest wave to ride.
Wilmot recalls, “When I got into riding waves in the 60s, there were Jamaican guys surfing already. I wasn’t the first guy. I was just the youngest kid who got into that first generation. It was never like us trying to be like what surfing was, because we didn’t know what surfing was… By the time we got exposed to the culture our ting like have its own flavour.”
The docu-series highlights in detail the significance of surfing and skateboarding cultures in cultivating community, self-expression, and creating an avenue to embrace the feeling of freedom and emphasizes parallels to Bob Marley’s reggae music and its ability to bring spirituality, happiness, and freedom to people’s lives.
Skateboarding grew out of the 1950s, and 1960s surfing culture and music has long been intertwined in both worlds. Reggae was one of the first music styles to be associated specifically with skateboarding.
Michael McGraw, then head of digital marketing for VP Records, told the Jamaica Observer back in 2014, “Reggae music is ingrained into the skateboard and surfing culture…”
Between the late 1980s and early 1990s, SMA Rocco Division skateboarders, like Jesse Martinez and Jef Hartsel, helped to shape the reggae-skateboarding culture by recording reggae-style songs.
The messages in Marley’s music, as well as the feeling it ignites, draw surfers to be on their boards. In the ‘Bob Marley-Legacy: Ride Natty Ride’ YouTube video, interviewees expressed: “As a kid, you definitely like the melody because it’s something yuh always hearing… and when we use to go on surf trips…. Yuh put on Bob’s music.”
“It’s the vibe and feeling yuh get. Listen to a Bob and yuh just feel light…”
“Mi just feel free.”
“Meck mi feel dat spiritual feeling.”
Ride Natty Ride is also the title of a track on Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Survival album released in 1979.
‘Legacy: Ride Natty Ride’ (Episode 6) follows the digital EP release of “Songs of Freedom: Rarities,” featuring Marley songs from alternate mixes that were not available for streaming until now, including the original version of “Iron Lion Zion,” “One Love/People Get Ready” (12” mix), among others.
The ‘Legacy’ series marks Marley’s 75th birthday anniversary celebrations. The first episode was aired on February 28, 2020. This coming October, and continuing the celebrations, Rizzoli will be publishing a photo book celebrating the life and influence if the musical icon, titled ‘Bob Marley: Portrait of the Legend.’ This is the first book of the sort authorized by the Marley Family.
Bob Marley died in May 1981 of cancer at the age of 36.