The Southern California Surfing Community Gathers En Masse for Racial Justice

“This has been the hardest week in my 48 years on this planet. This has been the hardest week to exist in my skin, and in my blackness. It has been that way for all of us, to have this skin: to wonder what it is … and ask whether or not we get to be Americans like everyone else.”

Sal Masekela’s poignant words above reverberated across a silent crowd of over 3,000 people who gathered together at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas Wednesday evening for the “Paddle Out for Unity in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter” demonstration. The event, organized by Textured Waves, Kindhumans Movement, Changing Tides Foundation and Masekela, was held to honor the life of George Floyd and other black lives lost to police brutality, as well as to take a stand against systemic racism in America.

People came together adorned with flowers, signs listing the names of lives tragically lost to racial injustices, surfboards spray-painted with “Black Lives Matter”, and yes, masks, with respect to COVID-19. The ceremony was backed by genuine community support and an earnest commitment to do the work necessary to fight racism.

While the fight for equality expands much larger than the surfing community, we all have a larger role to play in ending racism. “For all of the surfers that happen to be black, we’ve known and experienced challenges in this community that would probably shock you,” Masekela says. “It’s been very hard for people to perceive [that] people [who] don’t look like them, can love the ocean as much as they do.”

“Racism is not a thing that we will stand for” says Masekela, creating the space that led the crowd into a full eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence – for the time George Floyd suffered at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis.

What followed was one of the largest paddle-out ceremonies Encinitas has seen: a mass gathering of people with surfboards, kayaks, inflatable rafts and swim fins, congregating out at sea. Flowers were tossed as George Floyd and Breonna Taylors’ names were honored. The overwhelming turn-out from the Encinitas surfing community presented a hopeful energy, one that has felt difficult to summon amidst a grief-stricken country. The ocean in its power to heal should not be reserved for only the privileged, but available to all. Of course, the fight to end racism goes far beyond showing up to protests and donating, but in our lifelong commitment to not be complacent, and to listen, learn and act in support of a historically oppressed and underrepresented community. As the surfing community, let’s vow to continue to show up.

If you’d like to donate to organizations that promote diversity in the lineup and support black and minority surfing organizations, head on over to the Textured Waves resources page.