Nick Gabaldón Day 2021

Nick Gabaldón Day will take place on Saturday, October 9, 2021.

Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) was a pioneering surfer of African American and Mexican American descent. He was the first documented surfer of color in the Santa Monica Bay. Gabaldón’s passion, athleticism, discipline, love, and respect for the ocean live on as the quintessential qualities of the California surfer.

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. Nick Gabaldón Day, in its current form, is now in its 9th year and will be held on October 9, 2021. This innovative celebration provides an amazing opportunity for broadening outreach, action, and education to connect Angelenos with their cultural, historical, and natural heritage.

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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 from the 1900s to early 1960s among African American people, 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 the “Inkwell” and Nick Gabaldón with a landmark monument at Bay Street and the Oceanfront Walk. In 2019, this same beach was listed as the Bay Street Beach Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance in the African American experience and American history.

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 and a community who challenged anti-Black discrimination to enjoy the beach.

The Black Surfers Collective, Heal the Bay, Surf Bus Foundation, and the Santa Monica Conservancy collaborate for Nick Gabaldón Day to reach families in resource-challenged communities and connect them to meaningful educational programming. Together, we are helping build personal experiences with cultural, historical, natural heritage, and civic engagement that make up the foundation of stewardship, and the development of the next generation of heritage conservation and environmental leaders.

Heal the Bay Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier will be free for all visitors in honor of Nick on Saturday, October 9 thanks to a grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy and the University of Southern California Surf Team. Celebrity guest reader and Olympian Jamal Hill will pop in for story time and special art activities will be offered, as well as screenings of documentaries exploring issues of race, coastal access, and following your passion against all odds.

Tentative Agenda
Date: October 9, 2021

  • 9 am Welcome Ceremony and Memorial Paddle Out for Nick at Bay Street Beach
  • 10 am – 1 pm Free surf lessons, beach exploration, and cleanup at Bay Street Beach. Surfers must register in advance.
  • 1 pm – 4 pm Celebration continues at Heal the Bay Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier; admission to the Aquarium is free today in honor of Nick.
    • 1 pm Documentary screening
    • 2 pm Children’s story time with special guest reader, Olympian Jamal Hill
    • 3 pm Documentary screening

Nick Gabaldón Day 2021 Partners
Black Surfers Collective
Heal the Bay
Surf Bus Foundation
Santa Monica Conservancy

Sponsors
California State Coastal Conservancy
University of Southern California Surf Team

Special Thanks
Swim Up Hill
Outward Bound Adventures
Color the Water
YMCA Crenshaw
Martin Luther King Youth Center

For more information about partnership and sponsorship opportunities please contact: Jeff Williams, Black Surfers Collective, ghettosurfn@gmail.com or Meredith McCarthy, Heal the Bay 310.451.1500 ext. 116 or mmccarthy@healthebay.org.