Billy Mystic. Photo: Ellis
Billy Mystic. Photo: Ellis

Wisdom: Billy “Mystic” Wilmot

Patriarch of Jamaican surfing, 57, Bull Bay, Jamaica

Surfing keeps kids off the streets. It gives them something to think about that's not destructive in nature. They don't go online to check out handguns; they check to see when the next swell is coming. Surfing occupies the mind in constructive ways.

Teaching your kids to surf is a special thing. You know how much they're going to enjoy the first time they stand up and you're going to be the one who gave them that experience. That's a special feeling, knowing that you're the one who showed them what surfing is.

Tell your kids about your own mistakes and weaknesses. Some parents find that hard to do because they think that admitting they've made mistakes reduces their esteem in the eyes of their kids. Be big enough to realize that in sharing your past, you might save them from having to go through a similar experience.

Not everyone is going to be a World Tour surfer. If you can be realistic in what your objectives are, go for them and push those limits. I don't believe in the notion that you should shoot for the moon so you will land in the stars. I believe in a climbing process; yes, you're going for the moon, but you've got to get to the top of the hill first.

Anything that shows the ingenuity of man is a great thing. Like Kelly's wave pool — it's wonderful. Kelly's wave won't take the magic out of surfing, because you can still surf out in the sea. It's just adding to what surfing already is.

Nobody is the most stylish surfer. There are moments of style, but everybody has a dorky wipeout. Some styles are more pleasing to you than others, but even if a guy has the weirdest style, someone out there will think that it looks good. Take Occy, for example: Some people thought his surfing was the ugliest thing, while others thought it was so classic.

Surfing will often surprise you, especially when you travel. Visiting surfers are always surprised by Jamaica. Most people don't expect Jamaica to have so many waves of the caliber that we do. Surfers come here and they hope to get a day of chest-high waves, but they end up with overhead surf for a week straight and it ends up being the best surf trip of their lives.

Billy Mystic. Photo: Ellis

It's very common in Jamaica for people to go out of their way to help you. Jamaica is one of the most indebted countries in the world and the government doesn't have a lot of financial resources. Social support is minimal. So people turn to their friends, their family and their community for support. The fact that people are helpful is what makes me love Jamaica.

Everyone is real in Jamaica. We wear our hearts on our sleeves.

You have to preserve your history. It's important. It's your heritage. You need to know your story, where you came from and who the forefathers of surfing are. You appreciate surfing more when you know about the great things that were done before you.

Surfing is a good teacher. When kids are taught geography and science in school, they don't want to hear about it. They don't want to learn about wind, evaporation or condensation. But when kids become surfers, they start watching clouds and trees to study the wind and weather, and they want to learn about the bathymetry, the currents and the tides of the sea.

You stay fit by catching a lot of waves. When the waves are good, go surfing. Jamaica sees a lot of days of good surf and there aren't a lot of crowds here, so you can get 20 to 30 waves in one session. I'm 57 and still able to stay fit like that.

The love of surfing is universal. Everybody loves to get shacked. It doesn't matter what language you speak, what religion you believe in or what your skin color is. Nothing matters when you jump in the water and a wave pitches over your head and you can see the spit come out in front of you and you come out. Surfing proves to us that we are all the same. We are all equal.