I Follow: Sal Masekela

Sal Masekela (right) and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hosted a recent X Games ceremony.

Editor’s note: I Follow is all about ESPN employees on Twitter: what they tweet, whom they follow and how you can interact socially with anyone and everyone.

X Games 17 host Sal Masekela is no stranger to action sports.

An avid snowboarder, surfer and skateboarder himself, he has reported on the X Games since 1999.

X Games 17 runs Thursday through Sunday in Los Angeles.

Before they begin, host Masekela gives us an inside look at his Twitter activity.

He offers his thoughts on his X Games experiences, collaborating with his father at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and playing himself in an animated film.

Twitter handle: @SalMasekela

ESPN Job: X Games host and commentator

Followers: 45,521

Following: 566

FR: Who is the most exciting person following you on Twitter and why?

Masekela: Morgan Spurlock (@MorganSpurlock). One of the important documentarians of our generation thinks I’m somebody worth listening to…in 140 characters or less.

FR: As a host and sportscaster, why is it so important for you to connect with fans via Twitter?

Masekela: My job affords me a pretty amazing behind the scenes life. Twitter allows me to share the backstage pass with the fans.

FR: What topics do you like to Tweet about?

Masekela: A plethora: Pop culture, politics, surfing, current events, snowboarding, skateboarding, music, my personal victories and mass frustrations.

FR: As an athlete, if you had a chance to participate in an X Games event, what would it be and why?

Masekela: Skateboarding Big Air. Only an elite group of humans on this planet will ever know what that feeling is like. Sadly, my addiction to life will prevent me from ever making that list.

FR: Can you explain your Twitter profile picture? Is that of you as a young boy?

Masekela: It’s a picture of my mom cornrowing my hair as a 2-year-old.

FR: You have been involved with the X Games since 1999, starting as a snowboarding sideline reporter, what has been your most memorable experience throughout the years?

Masekela: The Tony Hawk Gigantic Skatepark Tour 2000-2002: aka the Golden Years.

FR: What X Games host city has been your favorite and why?

Masekela: Philadelphia. Love Park and regularly getting to see The Roots perform in local Philly bars….priceless.

FR: Last year, you collaborated with your father [musician Hugh Masekela] on a 10-part series documenting your experiences through South Africa which debuted during the 2010 FIFA World Cup coverage. What was the experience like touring and exploring through your father’s homeland?

Masekela: It was once in a lifetime. Road tripping with my father through the country he was exiled from for 30 years and taking the world along for the ride, was a beautiful thing. To be able to give a western audience a true sense of place as to how diverse and beautiful South Africa and its culture really are, was both humbling and an honor.

FR: Music and musicians is a topic you frequently tweet about. What are your favorite genres of music and how big of an influence is your dad on your musical tastes?

Masekela: I have a wide palate of musical tastes. My playlists are everything from ’70’s West African Hi-Life to Brazilian Classics to Radiohead to Wu-Tang Clan to Kanye West to Norah Jones. I grew up in jazz clubs as a young kid in the late 70’s and 80’s and toured with my father on Paul Simon’s Graceland Tour as a teenager, so my dad is a major influence on a lot of my tastes. He also insisted that I learn to play music at an early age and keep both an open ear and mind. Therefore, you can also expect me to be the first guy in the pit at a Rage Against the Machine concert.

FR: Your tweets reveal that you are involved in changing many of the social issues plaguing the world. As co-founder of Stoked Mentoring, how did the idea come about to combine life skills with action sports to help disadvantaged youth?

Masekela: Action sports have directly affected the person that I am today. The perseverance needed to progress, the constant challenge of new environments, understanding that we as humans are deeply connected at our core — these are all lessons that action sports have taught me. When those lessons began to translate into professional success, I started to wonder how perhaps these same lessons could make a difference in young people lacking opportunities to succeed. In 2005, I met a young man named Steve Larosiliere who had a similar vision and a deep background in both the non-profit and mentoring worlds. We combined our abilities and Stoked Mentoring was born. Now in it’s sixth year Stoked is dedicated to human development through the principles of action sports. You can learn more at stoked.org.

FR: You played yourself in the animated movie Surf’s Up as a penguin announcer. If you could be any animated character who would you be?

Masekela: Uncle Ruckus from The Boondocks.

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