Embracing Country Traditions: Indigenous Surfers Find a Spiritual Anchor in the Sea
Otis Carey can’t really tell you when he started surfing but his connection to the sea is clearly ingrained. “I was two days old when I first touched saltwater,” he says. Recently signed to Billabong on a deal that combines his love of surfing with his passion for contemporary Aboriginal art, he is part of a new generation of Indigenous Australians who have taken to the water to celebrate connections to country and culture, and to stake a claim to Indigenous lands and survival.
Exciting and unpredictable in the water, Carey is a great surfer by any standard. But with every session, he is conscious of the fact that he represents his people and culture. On each of his boards, he paints an Aboriginal flag as a small homage to his heritage. And when he scored the March cover of Tracks magazine, that flag, roughly drawn on the underside of his board, was front and centre.
With roots in the Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung clans of present-day New South Wales, Carey’s connection to the sea runs deep. “My people’s totem is the ocean, so it’s a very spiritual place for me,” he says.
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