In 2013, with the help of African American historian, Alison Rose Jefferson, Heal the Bay joined forces with the Black Surfers Collective to amplify and expand their prior Nick Gabaldón efforts. This year is our 8th Annual Nick Gabaldón Day Celebration. As a result of the pandemic World Surf League and the California Coastal Conservancy graciously stepped up to help us create a virtual Nick Gabaldón Day with a series of panels to dive deeper into past and current issues of equity and access facing our coast. The civil unrest has laid bare the desperate need to address racial injustice across all sectors. Our coast is no exception.
Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) was a pioneering surfer of Mexican and African-American descent. He was the first documented surfer of color in the Santa Monica Bay. The shoreline and waters at Bay Street in Santa Monica were an active hub of African American beach life during the Jim Crow era. This beach was popular in the 1900s to early 1960s among African Americans, who sought to avoid hostile and racial discrimination they might experience at other southland beaches. Racial discrimination and restrictive covenants prevented African Americans from buying property throughout the Los Angeles region, but their community's presence and agency sustained their oceanfront usage in Santa Monica. In 2008 the City of Santa Monica officially recognized Bay Street and Nick Gabaldón with a landmark monument at Bay Street and the Oceanfront Walk.
Nick Gabaldón Day introduces young and old from inland communities to the magic of the coast through free surf and ocean safety lessons; beach ecology exploration; and a history lesson about a man who followed his passion against all odds. The Black Surfers Collective, Heal the Bay, Surf Bus Foundation, Santa Monica Conservancy and other organizations will be back to partner on the Nick Gabaldón Day experience by reaching out to families in under-served communities for a day of surf lessons, history and a little beach ecology. We are helping to build personal and shared experiences with cultural, historical and nature heritage and civic engagement that are the foundation of stewardship, and the development of the next generation of civic, heritage conservation, and environmental leaders.