If you were to follow Elishama Beckford on Instagram, you’d clearly notice that the handsome young Jamaican was talented at boardriding, but you might not know exactly where his legendary handle @shama_the_superman comes from. While “Shama” is just short for Elishama, the “Superman” part was born from the fact that the 21-year-old goofyfooter from Bull Bay, Jamaica can pretty much do anything (REALLY) well that he sets his mind to.
One of Jamaica’s few pro surfers, Shama rips at skateboarding too, and has even started recording his own original music for his edits (Listen to “Mr. Laidback”). In high school, he was captain of the water polo team, excelled at track and field, plays soccer exceptionally, writes lyrics, draws amazing art and paints too (he’s the son of two artists). See…Superman. What’s even weirder, is that, sure, he puts his time into everything he does, but most of his talents just seem to come naturally. As if he was born with the abilities and knowledge somewhere deep within.
Most of that has to do with Shama largely being self-taught. Not necessarily by choice, but by chance. Born in Kingston, but moving with his family to the beach (Bull Bay) not far from the city as a child, Shama would tell you that as far as learning on his own — he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Growing up in Jamaica, I’d always just surf alone,” laughs Shama. “I’d just come home from school and no one would be out, so I’d just go in my backyard by myself. And I think by surfing alone a lot as I did, you start to create your own style, you create your own feeling and approach to a wave. I think when people see me surf, they comment they haven’t seen my kind of style which I think comes from growing up in a surf scene like that. As far as surf cultures go, Jamaica is a baby or an infant. You’re never really competing with anyone to get waves like in California or something.”
What Shama describes is true, too. He has a relaxed, gorgeous goofyfoot style, seemingly dripping from his board on bottom-turns, then accelerating into the lip with progressive flair and projection. Some of his self-taught style, however, not only comes from surfing alone, but from growing up with a lack of equipment.
“Growing up surfing in Jamaica, new boards were a rarity,” says Shama. “You always rode second hand boards that don’t fit you, so you had to learn and adjust to the different boards that probably aren’t your size. While it was sometimes challenging, I think I took a real positive approach to it because with surfing, it didn’t matter what I was riding, I just wanted to be out there. I think in the long run it helped me, really.”
That’s since changed now that Shama’s on Haydenshapes. It’s a journey 5-years in the making that Shama claims he manifested, first drooling over Haydenshapes he’d peruse on the website. He recalls how in 2016, Dylan Graves came over to Jamaica with Surfer mag and let Shama try his Shred Sled King, a board he instantly clicked with so hard that Dylan just let him keep it.
“That one is still a magic board and I still have it right now. It’s a gem, trust me. But I do believe in manifestation. If you really want something bad enough, you can make it happen.”
Then, just last year, impressed by Shama’s ability and style while in California, he was asked on to the Haydenshapes team. With a fresh new quiver, Shama admits he’d never actually gotten a board shaped just for him until then. I ask him about his favorite shapes…
“Probably my most favorite is the Holy Grail. It just rides phenomenal, works in every condition, and it’s got such good flow and release. It’s good in the air, just an all around great board, on rail, too: It just has that spark. Then, there’s my White Noiz for high performance, another all-around incredible shortboard. I got the Black Noiz for when it gets a little bigger; that board holds in really well in larger surf. Oh, can’t forget the Untitled, too. That’s another really zippy board and works like the Holy Grail. Of course all the boys took them for a spin too, as happens here when someone gets a new board.” [laughs]
Currently finishing a film called “Far Out,” we’re excited to discover what new talents Shama the Superman will share with us. Though tight-lipped about the project, he tells us there will be surfing, of course, but also music, too, art forms he claims are intrinsically linked.
“Surfing, to me is like art,” says Shama. “You’re doing art on a wave, but music is an art form too and just like music, surfing has a lot of rhythm. So, there’s connections with the flow and rhythms; they’re similar for sure. Whatever I do, though, whether in surfing, music, or art — I try not to conform to what’s acceptable or normal. It has to be different.” [laughs]
And that’s completely fine by us.
Surf Imagery by @billywilmot
Shama Beckford @shama_the_superman