MEN OF VENICE: ERIC TUMA BRITTON

All photos by Matt Smith

It’s a beautiful winter morning in Venice and there’s a little bit of swell running out in the Pacific. I have just recently moved to Venice, and the only wave I know about is the Breakwater. It’s a marginal wave at best, but beggars can’t be choosers. I paddle out and move to the shoulder immediately, because Venice’s history of localism precedes it. Sitting in the lineup like an outsider I keep to myself, although I peek over towards the pier and my gaze catches another surfer. I look away and he says, “What’s up man?” Not sure if he’s talking to me, I ignore him but he goes again and asks if I’m getting any waves. We spark up a conversation which is shortly interrupted by an impending set of waves. As it comes in, a few locals are already on it, but to my shock my new acquaintance drops in on all of them, with no regard whatsoever for the scary Venice locals. I’m shocked because my new friend doesn’t look like a surfer at all, he’s about 5’5, weighs around a buck fifty, and black. In South Africa, tons of black guys are now surfing, but having just moved from the whitest place in the world, Orange County, I’m somehow acutely aware of it. After the brutal drop-in, I’m expecting him to get yelled at, but to my surprise he paddles back out with a huge smile and jokes about knowing the guy he dropped in on his whole life. He then introduces himself as Tuma. My new friend Tuma and I randomly bump into each other later that day at a Venice local hangout spot, Rick Massie’s house. Tuma leaves and I drink a few more beers with Rick. I learn that Eric, or Tuma as his friends know him, is a skateboarding icon in the Venice community. He looks after the local kids, teaching them to skate and educating those around him through the lessons he’s learned the hard way. Tuma has lived anything but a boring life, he’s the best kind of extremist and still learning life the hard way. He has an infectious personality, always spreading the good vibes, and if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll cross paths with him.

What does it mean to be a man. 

I believe we have to reproduce and pass our lineage on, in a good way, not like I’m gonna go out and have a bunch of baby mama’s. I got my seed now, I’ve got to be responsible for my grom, and do things in a way that teaches him how to be a man. It’s taking responsibility for your actions. Then charge, what ever you do in life, charge big.

What does it mean to be a man in Venice. 

In Venice, if you make it past 22 you’re doing pretty good, because when I was growing up it was crazy violent around here. You have to carry yourself in a way where you learn respect and give respect. That could be said in any neighborhood where there’s a big community. It was tight-knit area back in the 80’s and 90’s when I was growing up, everybody knew each other so it taught us when we went to other neighborhoods to show respect. It’s all about respect and boundaries and then carrying that around the world or wherever you go.

When have you felt the most masculine. 

When I show up for my kid and my friends no matter what, being there for them regardless of how I’m feeling. When I help my baby momma out and own up to my mistakes. It’s trudging this course the right way. I feel most like a man when I’m giving. It’s all about unity and love.


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