This article was originally published by The Inertia.
On Sunday, February 21, a paddle out happened. Paddle outs, as you're aware, generally take place when someone dies. This paddle out, however, happened not because of a death, but because of an incident that occurred in the water on February 15. An incident that was part of a larger story that shouldn't even be a story any more. It's a story that only exists because of ignorance and malice.
Justin "Brick" Howze and Gage Crismond, two-thirds of a surf and art collective called Black Sand, were surfing in Manhattan Beach. After a brief disagreement with a group of white teens, an older white man reportedly paddled over and told them to "paddle north to El Porto, where you belong." Howze and Crismond are black men. Howze invited the man to paddle into the beach, an offer which was refused. Then, the man called Howze the n-word and began splashing him. The incident was caught on camera by a photographer on the pier.
"This racist woke up and chose violence," Howze explained on Instagram. "He called me and Gage a n****r in the water at Manhattan Beach Pier and repeatedly splashed me in the face. Fortunately, he's the one who has to sleep with those demons, not me. I want to see more allyship, regardless…I'll be right back out there tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day."
Howze took to Instagram to explain the entire disgusting experience in detail:
Soon after, the Black Sand trio had an idea: the Black Sand Peace Paddle. To get all surfers, regardless of race, to contribute to the creation of a space that's safe for everyone, regardless of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. "It's imperative for ALL surfers and humans to contribute to creating a comfortable space for black, Indigenous, and people of color," Black Sand wrote. "We must agree to hold our fellow surfers accountable and condemn ALL racist, homophobic, sexist, or hateful speech and/or behaviors."
And so, on Sunday morning, somewhere around 100 people paddled out together. Selema Masekela and Ryan Harris were there. Powerful speeches were made. One of the worst things about what happened on February 15 was that no one spoke up against the racism on display in the water that morning. No one else in the lineup told the racist that he was racist.
"The idea that we have to feel this positivity and be in this energy based off of hatred, based off of the experience where I had to look on my phone and see two young black men surrounded by people in the water as they're being accosted and called the n-word… and a bunch of people who sat there and did nothing," Masekela said on the morning of the paddle out. "When I saw those shots from the pier, that's all I could think of. These two young black boys are sitting there in a circle surrounded and most of the people in the water are staring and doing nothing. Doing nothing is more of a problem and more aggressive than the words actually being hurtled."
Surfing is for everyone. If you think differently, then surfing is not for you.