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“C’mon, meet me down there,” Rick Blocker yells to a pedestrian from the driver’s window as he heads to the beach, a surfboard attached to the roof of his car. The guy on the street said that he had always wanted to surf.
“You’d be surprised to know how often I hear that,” says Blocker. Being a black surfer is not such an anomaly. There are 250 of them, according to his estimate. But Blocker, a school teacher at Wadsworth Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles, wants to make surfing more accessible to black children — starting with his own. His 7-year-old son, Skyler, already has three boards.
Blocker was 12 and fearless when his brother bought him his first surfboard at a garage sale. “Paddle straight out into the horizon,” instructed the schoolteacher who trained him. Blocker offers the same counsel to anyone he finds interested in surfing the California shores near his home in Los Angeles. “It’s what I tell all first-timers. It’s also advice for life. You have to face challenges head on. Waves are the same. If you approach them sideways, you’ll run into difficulties,” Blocker says.
He spent his first two lessons on his stomach, feeling the rhythm of the sea. On his third ocean date, Blocker was riding and screaming at the top of his lungs. “I was so excited, and the wave was only a foot high. But it’s never about the size of the wave; it’s about the journey.”
Blocker has enjoyed his for 36 years. His most challenging adventure was in Fiji at Cloudbreak — a coral reef seven miles off the island’s coast. After a wipeout (a spill), Blocker’s leash (an ankle band connected to the surfboard) hooked onto the reef and held him under. “The coral was so sharp, it eventually cut through the leash. That’s what saved my life,” he explains.
At 48, Blocker is looking forward to surfing African waters. “I would like to visit Jeffries Bay in South Africa. There are also great, untapped surf spots in Indonesia.”
Blocker is hoping to qualify for the Rabbit Kekai World Surfing Championships in Costa Rica in 2003. “I competed a lot when I was younger, winning a few awards, and then became what we call a soul surfer — guys who surf just for the love of the sport. I’m starting to compete again, though, because I like and miss the camaraderie,” he says.
LOG ON. Blocker joined the Black Surfing Association (http://home town.aol.com/rbloc42/myhomepage/ club.html, 805-238-3895) when it began in the mid ’70s. “Contact a surfer. Everyone is really enthusiastic,” he says.
RENT YOUR BOARD. Blocker owns nine different surfboards. (Price range: $500-$1,000; half-day rentals: $25.)
DON’T GET INTIMIDATED. “You’re never too old to get started,” Blocker stresses. “Recently, I’ve seen a renewed interest in surfing with folks in their 50s and 60s.”