Nick Gabaldón Day 2023

Nick Gabaldón Day will take place on Saturday, June 3, 2023, from 9AM – 4:30PM. Sign up for FREE Surf Lessons or REGISTER to Volunteer

Celebrating Nick Gabaldón

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. 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 is now in its 11th year, and will be held on June 3, 2023, as a collaboration of organizations gather together to honor this great legacy that left ripples throughout many communities. ​The Surf Bus Foundation is another essential organization to the structure and safety of Nick Gabaldón Day 2023, empowering people to have a healing connection to the sea by engaging in ocean sports like surfing.

This innovative and collaborative celebration provides an amazing opportunity for broadening outreach, action, and education to connect Angelenos with their cultural, historical, and natural heritage.

Sign up for FREE Surf Lessons or REGISTER to Volunteer

 We are excited this year to welcome LA28.  The LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games will celebrate our community’s diversity and creativity to collectively design a Games we all want to be a part of.  The Games are organized by an independent, non-profit, private organization that partners with private and public entities to deliver the Games. Participants will have an opportunity to meet and hear inspirational stories from Olympic athletes.  

Once Upon a Beach, in the Face of Adversity

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.

A Beach Day For All: June 3, 2023

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.

Sign Up For Free Surf Lessons

Register to Volunteer

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 to connect them with 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, June 3, 2023 thanks to a generous sponsorship. A celebrity guest reader 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 (12 Miles North: The Nick Gabaldón Story” [2012] and  “La Maestra (The Teacher)” [2014]).

Tentative Agenda: June 3, 2023

  • 9 am Welcome Ceremony and Memorial Paddle Out for Nick at Bay Street Beach
  • 10 am – 1 pm Free surf lessons, beach and local history exploration, and cleanup at Bay Street Beach. MUST REGISTER TO ACCESS FREE SURF LESSONS.
  • 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 guest reader
    • 3 pm Documentary screening

Nick Gabaldón Day 2023 Presented By
Black Surfers Collective
Heal the Bay
Surf Bus Foundation
Santa Monica Conservancy

Swim Up Hill
Color the Water
LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games
SoFly Surf School

Participating Youth Groups
Outward Bound Adventures
The Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Funding for this project was provided (in part) by the Refugio Beach Oil Spill South Coast Shoreline Parks and Outdoor Recreation Grants Program overseen by the Refugio Beach Oil Spill Trustee Council.

For more information about partnership and sponsorship opportunities please contact: Jeff Williams, Black Surfers Collective, or Meredith McCarthy, Heal the Bay 310.451.1500 ext. 116 or


Alison Rose Jefferson M.H.C. Ph.D.

Alison Rose Jefferson M.H.C. Ph.D. is a historian and heritage conservation consultant who has contributed to the organization of the Nick Gabaldón Day celebration since 2013. Currently, Jefferson’s work is public facing as consultant on Los Angeles history projects. Her book Living the California Dreams: African American Leisure Sites during the in the Jim Crow Era, rethinks the significance of the struggle for leisure and public space for all within the long freedom rights struggle and civil rights movement. Her book was honored with the 2020 Miriam Matthews Ethnic History Award by the Los Angeles City Historical Society for its exceptional contributions to the greater understanding and awareness of regional history. Dr. Jefferson’s work has garnered attention in the L.A. Times and other media outlets. For more information about her activities visit her website, 

Surf Bus Foundation 

​The Surf Bus Foundation’s mission is to empower people to have a healing connection to the sea. They do this by engaging in ocean sports like surfing, swimming and beach games while exploring the wonder and beauty of the sea. Our teaching and mentoring provides understanding that encourages a lifelong commitment to share and protect our oceans for all to enjoy. 

Jamal Hill 

Jamal Hill is a Los Angeles based educator and community leader with over 10 years of experience in aquatics that include teaching inner-city youth swim lessons, serving as an LA County lifeguard, and representing Team USA as a member of the Paralympic Swimming team. Dismantling the barriers to industry entry such as previous aquatic related trauma, lack of access to calm water environments, unestablished learning curves, and non-affordable pricing, Jamal helps to create restorative justice through swimming for underserved communities with little access to this life saving essentials.