Everything You Need to Know about South African Spinning

Automobiles and automobile culture have evolved over the years; people not only use cars for transportation but also as a tool of self-expression. Societies add their own unique cultures to their automobiles, forming new subcultures, giving their communities a new sense of identity and pride. Car Spinning, an automotive subculture originating in South Africa, has become a beacon of hope and has renewed a sense of identity in its community.

What is Car Spinning?

Car Spinning is a sport in which a driver veers a car in circles while maintaining control.

What is the history of Car Spinning?

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South Africa was divided for decades due to tension between the National Party and Non-White South Africans. As a result of the tension, many Non-Whites looked for ways to defy the government, often participating in illegal acts such as stealing cars, which were often associated with higher status in society. Oppressed individuals would steal cars and do doughnuts and burnouts, proclaiming it as “getting back at the government.”

Gangsters would often spin cars at loved ones’ funerals, ending their performance by setting the car on fire as a sign of respect and love.  Some of the most popular cars for Car Spinning included the BMW 325i, often known as “Gusheshe,” and the BMW E30 series.  These were viewed as the best cars to spin because of their build, stability, and rear wheel drive.  Through spinning, South Africans fought back against segregation, reinventing their community culture. How does Car Spinning Work?

There is way more to Car Spinning in South Africa than just hopping in a car and taking it out for a “spin.” Judges critique each driver on certain techniques, including tire bouncing, doughnuts, power sliding, stand still burnouts, target sliding, and tire popping.

While the basic techniques are the most common in Car Spinning, what really allows a driver to stand out is the “Get Out and Stunt.” While spinning, the driver will exit the car, strike poses, use the car as a prop, and even chase after the car.

As each driver creates their own unique, personal, tricks and styles when spinning, the judges use the crowd’s reaction as well as overall performance to determine a winner. Spectators from all walks of life in South Africa come for the excitement and euphoria. From the tire burn smoke to the screaming fans, spinning has provided a new outlet for South Africans to redefine their culture, bring a new sense of community.

Who participates in Car Spinning?

People from all walks of life participate in Car Spinning. Since spinning was illegal for decades, it provided little monetary benefit, forcing many spinners to take other jobs.  Doctors, lawyers, taxi drivers, and even street merchants participate in spinning, using it as an escape  from real world struggles.

Spinner Stacy Lee May uses spinning to avoid being bullied at school and to build up her confidence. May has been spinning since she was sixteen years old and it has granted her success despite her age and gender in a predominately male industry. With her unique stunts and poses, she has been able to receive partnerships with global brands like Nike and Netflix.  These partnerships have given much needed attention to Car Spinning and the community that surrounds it, expanding the reach of the sport.

How has Car Spinning impacted South Africa and its culture?

South African communities have been empowered by Car Spinning. In light of spinning’s success, Paule Earm, a famous spin promoter, opened the Soweto Drift Academy to empower his community and to make Car Spinning accessible to all. At the academy’s opening, Earm stated, “We hope to inspire change and champion the inclusion of all those who would like to participate in motorsport professionally, especially young people (male and female) from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.”  Car Spinning and its popularization has provided an outlet for South Africans to express themselves, relieving some of the ongoing tension and providing a means of self-expression through automotive sport and customization.

By Kyrie Blackman

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