Since the iconic Black surfer, Nick Gabaldón broke barriers surfing at Santa Monica Beach in the late 1940s, generations of Black surfers have followed his legacy into the ocean. The problem is that the world has yet to learn about their impact. Black men and women have left their mark on the surfing world by challenging preconceived notions and using the sport as a way to deal with personal traumas and creatively express themselves. Here are some of the dopest Black surfers from past to present.
1. Nick Gabaldón
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The legend of Nick Gabaldón, Santa Monica’s famed #lifeguard #waterman continues to shine on today as the first documented #surfer of African/Mexican-American descent, which includes a landmark monument to him at Bay Street and Oceanfront Walk in #SantaMonica #California. He first started surfing at #InkwellBeach in the ’40s, a beach whose very existence was the result of Jim Crow segregation and whose name was derogatorily derived. Despite this, the name was reclaimed as a badge of pride and during the high season, hundreds of African-Americans from throughout Southern California socialized, enjoyed the ocean breezes and swam at the Inkwell because they experienced less racial harassment there than at other area beaches. From there, Nick would paddle #12milesnorth up the coast (and back) to #Malibu where he found the perfect wave and was embraced by the mere handful of surfers who surfed there, white and Latino, who til this day, speak of his untimely passing with great pain because he was so beloved. It was a day when there was a big swell and in a freak accident, he got caught in the pier. He died at the tender age of 24 in 1951 and left an indelible impression. Not only was he an awesome pioneer as a surfer, but his story reveals surfing’s oft-forgotten counter-culture roots, where the local surfers’ unquestionable embrace of him into their fold, reveals how they rebelled and resisted the ignorance & oppressions of the status quo on-land. Celebrating #Blackhistorymonth #NickGabaldon #Gabaldon #surf #surfhistory #blacksurfers #mexicansurfers
Probably the most recognizable Black surfer in history, Nick Gabaldón was instrumental in breaking down racial barriers and paving the way for future Black wave riders. He was born on February 23, 1927, in Los Angeles, California to a Black mother and Mexican father. During the height of segregation, the surfing icon taught himself how to master the waves. Although the segregated part of Santa Monica State Beach — known as “The Inkwell”— was essentially his playground, Gabaldón also surfed predominantly white beaches along the California coast. His presence aided in desegregation, but at the age of 24, Gabaldón lost control of his surfboard and died.
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