Riding Waves, Breaking Barriers

“The myth that surfing is a white boy sport is absurd.” So say the filmmakers behind White Wash, a documentary focused on shattering the surfer-dude stereotype.

Using rare archival footage, interviews with historians and professional surfers such as Buttons Kaluhiokalani, director Ted Woods traces the history of black surfing from its origins in West Africa and chronicles the struggle against Jim Crow laws for freedom and equality at the beach, including in Southern California.

In the 1920s-50s, Santa Monica’s beaches were segregated, with only one beach — the “Ink Well” — designated for African Americans. Located at Bay Street and Ocean Front Walk, this beach served as the home base for pioneering African American surfer Nick Gabaldon and as a haven for black Angelenos who loved swimming and surfing.

The film will screen July 7 at the California African American Museum (CAAM) as part of an afternoon to raise awareness for water sports, water safety and environmental protection, with input from the L.A. County Lifeguard Service, Black Surfing Association, Black Surfers Collective, LA Black Underwater Explorers, and Heal the Bay. 

Heal the Bay is co-sponsoring the event with CAAM, the Pan African Film Festival and the NAACP. 

Program activities begin at 1 p.m. followed by the 2 p.m. White Wash screening. Post-screening discussion will follow with the film’s participants: Director Ted Woods, and Rick Blocker (Black Surfing Network), historian Alison R. Jefferson and educator Andrea Kabawasa (Black Surfing Association).

The RSVP list for this event is now closed. If you missed the CAAM event, check out the White Wash screening and panel discussion on September 16 at the Santa Monica Public Library.