In case you missed it, last month’s issue of Australian surf rag Surfing Life ran a feature on Australian aboriginal wave rider Otis Carey that sparked a nation-wide racial up-roar when author Nathan Myers described the surfer as follows:
“With his apeish face and cowering hair-curtains, I expect little more than Cro-Magnon grunts from his mouth. I am caught off guard by the clarity and eloquence of his speech.”
As soon as Surfing Life realised the offence they’d caused, the magazine issued a public apology for the slip-up, ensuring all of their readers they never meant to imply any racial connotations and don’t condone any form of racism.
However, understandably angered at the article, the apology hasn’t stopped Otis Carey from consulting a lawyer and reportedly levying a lawsuit for defamation of character against Surfing Life and author Nathan Myers for $200,000.
On hearing this news, long-time surf scribe Nathan Myers has penned an Open Letter to Otis Carey on The Inertia.com, once again apologising and urging him to withdraw the libel suit. But Myers also disparages Carey for biting the hand that feeds him. Carey, for now, has refrained from commenting publicly.
It’s not the first time an Australian surf publication has run into trouble for raising the subject of racism in surfing. In 2010, American journalist Chas Smith wrote a piece in Stab Magazine in which he accused 3-time world champ Mick Fanning of calling him a “Fucking Jew”. And in another feature on Jamaican surfer Icah Wilmot, Australian journalist Jed Smith expressed ideas on the modern day rise of coloured surfers in a surfing world largely dominated by Caucasian whites in a extremely controversial albeit ironic style. But neither of these ended in litigation.
For a glimpse of Otis Carey’s personality and character in and out of the water, check out his recent Kill The Matador profile film.