I feel like it’s important for Black people to have the opportunity to explore what they enjoy without any stereotypes attached. It’s extremely powerful and liberating to go against what is expected and try something wholly new and different. Surfing gives me the opportunity to disconnect from anything I'm struggling with on land and escape to a whole new world. I have found so much joy and therapy in being in the water and challenging myself to try something new. Esabella "Bella" Bonner
Undoubtedly, 2020 was a year full of rife divisiveness in almost all areas of our lives. With feelings of despair seemingly drowning us, we must remember the unexpected moments of joy, courage, and progress, too!
For me, one such moment was meeting and photographing Esabella "Bella" Bonner, founder of Black Surf Club in Santa Cruz, California, at their first surf club lesson. Surf culture makes no secret that being in the ocean can clear the mind and awaken immense joy within us. However, surf culture lacks a broader inclusive point of entry to its health benefits.
While observing surfers at her hometown break, Bella soon realized the lack of representation in the water. She also wanted to share the joy and benefits of the ocean within her community. With these two things in mind, she resolved to create a safe space to introduce surfing to any person of color who was willing to try. Through the support of volunteers and local donations of wetsuits and surfboards, Bella succeeded in bringing surfing to a broader audience and adding diversity to the line-up.
This article is dedicated to my beloved father Alfred Montgomery & Grandmother Carrie Alford. May we continue to practice physical, spiritual, and mental wellness as means to honor their lives & the countless others who have died at the hands of our current health crisis, systemic racism, and medical malpractice. Bella Bonner 2020
ALL photos by Kaili Reynolds