“Diversity in the Lineup” – Introducing the Black Surfers Collective

From ActCoastal

By Jeff Williams | Published 2013/11/10

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This blog represents the views of the authors, and does not necessarily reflect the positions of ActCoastal and its partner organizations.

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I’ve loved the beach and ocean since I was a young boy growing up in Southern California. As a grown man, I wanted to share this experience with others, especially city kids who don’t have enough recreational options. So, a few years ago, I co-founded Black Surfers Collective. Our mission is to raise cultural awareness and promote diversity to the sport of surfing through community activities, outreach and camaraderie. See: BlackSurfersCollective.org And for more information, see this story on GrindTV


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We sponsor family oriented activities that get folks down to the beach to share our love of the water. Through these seaside events we hope to engage public interest in the sport of surfing, history, beach culture and ocean stewardship.

Our group is composed of people from many different backgrounds, who all share a spiritual connection to the ocean. We are of the community that believes a state of true bliss is only attainable through this connection to the earth we feel while wave riding. We strive to reach out to a culturally inclusive community in an effort to share this joyous experience, the sense of accomplishment and freedom that comes with it.

The daily grind of modern life can take a toll on the soul, and we all need an opportunity to recharge our batteries. The rhythmic pulses of the ocean and being in the moment while surfing gives us all this chance.

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We honor and commemorate the lives of beach community leaders like Nick Gabaldon (1927 – 1951), the first documented surfer of African-American and Mexican descent, and the heritage of the historical African American beach site in Santa Monica sometimes formerly called the “Inkwell”.

Gabaldon’s legacy has inspired many surfers of color and otherwise to consider him as a role model. His passion, athleticism and love for the ocean live on as the quintessential qualities of the California surfer. The Bay Street/Inkwell site was a popular beach hangout for African Americans during the nation’s Jim Crow era, from the 1900s to 1960s. In 2008 the City of Santa Monica officially recognized the “Inkwell” and Gabaldon for their cultural significance in local, California and American history. Nike even produced a great mini-documentary on Gabaldon.

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We are also concerned that the opportunity for everyday tax paying families to recharge their batteries at the beach is often frustrated by coastal land owners who illegal block the beach access that is supposed to be available for us all.

For example, at Big Dume State Park, there are parking spaces and ample street parking except the homeowners have NO BEACH PARKING signs all throughout the neighborhood, essentially giving them Big Dume surf break and State Park to themselves. Even places like Latigo, where access is available, there are countless signs where the homeowners try to keep people out by intimidation.

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That’s why the Black Surfers Collective traveled to Sacramento last summer to support a bill by Assemblywoman Atkins (AB 976). This bill will level the playing field. It will help to remove the socioeconomic injustice that we have endured for so many years. We must enforce the law that says it’s illegal to block the public from their basic right to get to the beach. The beach belongs to all…especially the next generation. Don’t lock them out.

Visit our site for more on the Black Surfers Collective.

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My name is Jeff Williams and my life’s daily mission is “to be of maximum service to everyone.” It is a work in progress to say the least, but as a landlocked youth I found solace in looking at Surfer Magazine and aspiring to be Gerry Lopez or Buttons Kaluhiokalani. Some years later I found myself living in Venice looking out at the breakwater with a chance to do that which I desired. I soon met up with a few other black surfers to co-found BSC as an organization that could allow us to be more than just a surf club. In 2013 we introduced more than 250 kids to surfing. We hope to become a Non-profit soon and teach board sport discipline as an alternative learning method.