Michael Alexander Talks about His Adventures of Being a Gay Surfer.
Interview by Demetrio Roldan
A GAY LATINO SURFER? Is there such a thing? Yes! Meet Michael Alexander, a 21 year old gay Latino surfer, who enjoys riding the waves off the Southern California beaches. qvMagazine talked to him about how he got started in this sport, what it means to be a surfer, and how he managed to find a group of gay Latino surfers to surf with.
When did you first get into surfing? I started surfing when I was about 12 years old.
What led up to it? I grew up in Orange County, in Huntington Beach. It’s a beach city and I was very close to the beach and all of us were surfers, so I ended up becoming one as well. I didn’t want to, at first, but I ended up being one.
How long did it take you to learn how to surf? I was a natural! It didn’t take me long. By the time I was 13 years old, I was surfing amateur competitions, competing against a lot of guys like Kelly Slater and a lot of the pro surfers today. I was doing pretty good.
Did someone actually teach you or did you just grab a surf board and head out? Actually, my dad took me out and really taught me how to surf. He grew up in Huntington Beach as well. It was really strange because he’s my step-dad. My mom and dad aren’t Latino. My mom remarried my father who is black. That’s how I got my last name “Alexander,” I used his last name. My original last name was “Guzman” which was my (biological) father’s, but I never knew him. So it was unique to see a Hispanic kid and a black father out in Huntington Beach surfing.
Did you ever see other Latino surfers out there? No. There weren’t any at that time, but there are a tremendous number of them now. But when I was surfing at a younger age, there weren’t any.
When did you first find out you were gay? When I was about 16 years old. It was really difficult because I didn’t know that there were other gay guys around me at the time. I didn’t know how to express myself. Now I hang out with a lot of surfers. Most of them are gay and a lot of them are Latino.
How did you find these other gay Latino surfers? I found them in my neighborhood! (Laughs) I just went out and got them. Most of them I met in high school and when we got older, we just started surfing together. We kind of knew about each other, but didn’t say anything. We were struggling by dating girls. Of course, we weren’t into them, but we were just trying to fit in. And then eventually, we came out to each other and ended up dating each other (laughs).
How old are you guys? We’re between 20 and 21.
Now, is there a territorial thing when it comes to catching waves? Yeah. It’s like snaking someone else’s wave. You call the people “out-of-towners.” That happens in surfing, but me and the guys I hang out with are pretty peaceful. Most of us are gay, so we kind of stick to ourselves, and we don’t give anyone any problems.
What goes through your mind when you’re out there surfing? Basically, nothing (Laughs)! Actually, it’s just an opportunity for me to get out in the water. A lot of people don’t know that when you’re so many hundred yards off the shoreline, you can’t hear anything. You can stand on the shore and scream, “Hey, Mike,” and I won’t be able to hear you no matter how loud you scream. You’re out there all by yourself. It’s a good opportunity to ponder the things you haven’t accomplished, and what you need to get done. So when I’m out on the water, I basically focus on the things I want to accomplish in life. It’s like a peaceful serenity.
Where are some of the best places to catch waves?Well, Huntington Beach, Newport, 17th Street—those are good places in California. Also, Malibu Beach is good. Usually I surf in Orange County…in Laguna (CA). And outside of California, I’ve surfed as far down as Mexico.
Would you consider yourself an adventurous person?Yeah, I’m really
adventurous. I do a lot of water sports other than surfing. I scuba dive, skin dive, snorkel, jet ski. I do all the water sports.
You’re not afraid of water at all? Oh no. I’m like a fish in water!
What about with sharks? No. (Laughs). You have few sand sharks that frequent the Orange County coast at certain times of the year. The only time I’m afraid is when I go to Mexico and Baja because they’re more prevalent down there. If you go surf off Monterey Bay, there have been shark attacks there. I’ve only surfed up there once.
What can you tell people who have never surfed before that they might not know about surfing? Well, you have to have a lot of endurance to be a surfer. You almost have to be like a triathlete in order to get out there, get on the waves, and do the things necessary to get up on the board. It’s not as easy as most people think. It’s very difficult actually. It can
take your breath away, if you don’t do it right.
What else? You need to know what beaches are safe, what the swells are, and what types of waves you’re going to be getting at certain times of the day. In the morning, they’re a little higher and farther out than around noon or evening. You also need to find a surfing school to learn the appropriate way to stand up on a board. A friend could help you stand up, too.
And what types of things would a person need to surf? You’d need a board that fits your style and size. You’d need the appropriate attire, especially in California because the water is only about 65 degrees—that’s cold. So you’d need a cool wet suit, which can run from $150-$300. And then some thongs to walk through the beach.
How do you find out about the currents? Channel 7 doppler radar! They give the surf reports on the news. Or you can go to a surfing website. You can look at beach cams on some of the websites, too.
So where do you see yourself going? At this particular time, I’m attending a university in Orange County where I’m studying to be an attorney. That’s my ultimate goal. I go to the University of Irvine.
Any last thoughts? I think there should be more gay Latino surfers out there. I often find that when I’m surfing with my friends, we see a huge influx of Hispanic people coming to the beach with their families, but they don’t really ever get into the water. They just come and barbeque on the beach and wade in the water. There’s a lot of money to be made as a professional surfer. For example, guys like Kelly Slater are making $6-$7 million in surfing alone and another $10 million in endorsements and movie deals. It would be very interesting to see more beautifully physiqued Latino males, and females, as well, come out and participate in the water sports like surfing. See original Interview