Words and Photos by Martei Korley
The Makka Pro surf tournament has, for the past five years, invigorated the surfing scene in the Caribbean. Held by the Jamaican Surfing Association on beautiful Southhaven Beach in Yallahs, St. Thomas, Jamaica, the tournament attracts talent from around the Caribbean and the US. For three days–this year, Jul7 29th through the 31st–the otherwise quiet beach enclave teems with activity. As an official tournament, medalists win both monetary prizes and points ranking in their overall seasonal scores. The event’s organizer is singer/actor/surfing activist Billy “Mystic” Wilmot, an eclectic personality who has had a broad influence on Jamaican culture, from his days as the frontman for Mystic Revealers, to acting in the long running Royal Palms sitcom, to helping expose the sport of surfing to the masses. His compound at Cable Hut Beach houses not only a plethora of skaters, surfers and creatives—it also serves as the venue for his “Jamnesia” open mike event. Wilmot has a personal stake in the competition, impartial as he may want to be: His sons Icah (last year’s Makka Pro winner in the men’s section) and Inilek and daughter Imani (This year’s winner in the women’s section) are all stalwarts of the event.
As a free event, Makka Pro keeps things democratic, offering a great beach day with appeal to spectators who may not even swim themselves. The swells could have been bigger, especially during the women’s competition, but there were still some stellar moments.. It of course doesn’t hurt that a veritable fair of activity and booths, with friendly faces selling fried fish and jerk chicken, glow sticks and sugarcane, lined the lawns. Not to mention a bungee jump-like contraption propelling people into the air and capoeira dancers competing with a soundsystem blaring Luther Vandross.