Black American Surfers
By Louise Buckley
In May of this year, I started surfing and it instantly became the best thing in the world to me. What's not the best though, is how surfing still seems to be so heavily associated with white men. I like learning about what I'm doing, so between beach time and painting I've been looking into the history of surfing, which really lacks diversity on the surface. I felt like I really had to dig deep to find any kind of deviation.
It has been so easy for me to find videos of white men surfing, they're the default when you search "surfing" or "surfer." Of course, most of those guys are really great and it's awesome to watch them, but it would be so meaningful, encouraging, and just cool for people to see a wider variety of surfers. I wondered if I was looking just in the wrong places. I'm no expert, but this lack of diversity is a trend in and out of the water so I have been looking into surfers who don't fit the stereotypical mold. Specifically, Black American surfers who have been historically excluded from the water through segregation, racism, redlining, and the extremity of "local's only" attitudes.
I put together some information on eight Black American surfers to share some of what I found and learned. It's not comprehensive, just a launching point for further learning. There are not as many photos, videos, interviews, or just general information about Black female surfers especially.
Some things to look into:
• The indigenous roots of surfing and its whitewashing
• Beach segregation and Black beach clubs
• Inkwell Beach
• 1959-1963 Beach Wade-Ins
• Redlining and its affect on beach access
• Surfing can often be passed down through generational exposure, so what impact does beach access and level of comfort on the beach have on that?
Some organizations to support/get involved with:
• Ability Surf (Australia)
• Benny's Club: Queer/POC Surf Collective (New York City)
• Black Surfing Association, Rockaway (New York City)
• Brown Girl Surf (Oakland, California)
• City Surf Project (Bay Area, California)
• Color The Water (California)
• Indigenous Surf Club (Santa Cruz, California)
• Native Like Water (California /International)
• Surfearnegra (Florida)
I would love to hear from you if you have any thoughts, additional resources, or information!
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