12 Miles North: The Nick Gabaldon Story

Ricky Grigg, Unknown, Vicki Flaxman and Nick Gabaldon surfing Malibu. Photo by Joe Quigg; Photo Courtesy of Vicki Flaxman

Most people probably have not heard of Nick Gabaldon. Until now, Nike has presented the Nick Gabaldon Story, 12 Miles North. Nicholas Roland Gabaldon grew up in Santa Monica near the sea and the location of the Inkwell, a segregated portion of Santa Monica Beach where black people where not stopped from swimming or entering the water since the 1920s when Arthur Valentine made the mistake on trespassing on the whites only section of the beach. Even though this was the 1950s, Nick being African American and Latino was stll relegated to the Inkwell until he learned to surf.

That’s when, lore has it, that Nick paddled the 12 miles north to Malibu where he improved his surfing skills with the white folks who would become surfing legends. People like Buzzy Trent, Mickey Munoz, and Ricky Grigg.

Nowadays, the Inkwell is no longer called that. The City of Santa Monica has paid tribute to its native son by a plaque memorializing the location at the spot where Nick learned to surf and in the process broke the color barrier in his own way.

The 30 minute film tells Nick’s Story leading up to that tragic day in June 1951 when Nick died “shooting the pier” at Malibu. The story, told through the eyes of those still living surfing legends and friends who were there that fateful day. Among the special guests was Nick Gabaldon’s Grand Nephew, Vincent, and also surf legend Kathy Kohner- Zuckerman, “Gidget”, whose father’s famous book referenced the “colored boy” being killed surfing, believed to be a reference to Nick’s death which was reported in the newspapers of the time. Check out the documentary on line at the link below.

“Desiring to build a repertoire company that would perform her own unique, risk-taking, experimental works, as well as the works of legendary pioneers in African-American dance”, Lula Washinton established her dance theater. Part of the premiere of 12 Miles North, also included the premiere of a dance tribute by Lulu’s theater troupe to Nick Gabaldon, in three parts: Dreams=Freedom, Living the Dream, and The Journey, choreographed by Tamica Washington-Miller.  The dance is to be added to their Tour Repertoire.

The program was presented to benefit Stoked Mentoring and the Black Surfing Association.

Color Photographs by Paula Lauren Gibson/AfroPix

Find your surfing, 12 Miles North
A film by Richard Yelland

Lulu Washington Dance Theater


About Afropix

When my father gave me a Kodak Brownie as a child, I fell in love with photography. I have been shooting pictures ever since. I am also an avid genealogist and can trace one of my family lines back to 1620! Check out my photography at afropixphotography.com!
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