June 1st is Surfer Nick Gabaldon Day in Santa Monica


The Black Surfers Collective, Heal the Bay, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Santa Monica Conservancy along with other groups will offer a day of surf lessons and activities to commemorate the life of Nick Gabaldon, the first documented California surfer of African American and Mexican descent.  After serving a stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Nick Gabaldon learned to surf at a segregated portion of Santa Monica Beach, known as the “Inkwell”.  Soon, he was paddling via surfboard to Malibu where he surfed with surfing icons such as Ricky Griggs, Greg Noll, Mickey Munoz, Matt Kivlin, and Buzzy Trent. On June 5, 1951, it is reported that Nick was “shooting the pier” – a maneuver in which one rides a surfboard on a wave between the pier pilings – when he tragically hit the piling and died. His body was recovered several days later when it washed up on Las Flores Beach. He is buried next to his beloved mother, Cecilia, at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Santa Monica.


Nick Gabaldon (last guy on right) surfing with Ricky Griggs and Vickie Flaxman (now Williams) and unknown. Photo by Joe Quigg

As described by Heal the Bay, the June 1st event will “celebrate our shared California seaside, cultural and historical heritage, and outreach to promote the joys of surfing and the beach, historical studies and ocean stewardship. This event is also a way of using historic preservation, nature conversation and environmental justice movement ideals to engage broader audiences in the preservation and ocean stewardship of our precious cultural, natural and historical heritage.” Santa Monica Mayor, Pam O’Connor has proclaimed June 1st, 2013 Nick Gabaldon Day.


The schedule for the day’s events is:

•             9 a.m. – Welcoming Ceremony and Memorial Paddle Out in honor of Nick Gabaldon at the Inkwell.

•             10 a.m.-1 p.m. – Free surf lessons will be provided by Black Surfers Collective and the Surf Bus Foundation (Surf lessons must be reserved in advance, see link below) at the Inkwell. Bring a blanket and learn about this historical beach, and arrive ready to explore this sandy habitat;

•             12:30 p.m.  A Beach reception at the Inkwell with L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas;

•             1 p.m. The celebration moves to Heal the Bay’s Aquarium located at the Santa Monica Pier. Admission is free.

•             1:45 p.m. Documentary screening of 12 Miles North about Nick‘s life.

•             2:30 p.m. Children’s Story Time with special guest reader

•             2:45 p.m. Screening White Wash. A documentary exploring the complexity of race in America through the eyes of the ocean.

•             4:15 p.m. 12 Miles North documentary screening

Rusty’s Surf Ranch in Santa Monica will provide a 10% discount on food and beverage for the day to anyone who mentions Nick Gabaldon Day, the Black Surfers Collective, or Heal the Bay from opening (11 a.m.) to sundown. Also enjoy their Nick Gabaldon Day drink special!

Sign up for surfing lessons by clicking here!

The Inkwell is located on the beach at the end of Bay Street between Pico Blvd and Bicknell.

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
1600 Ocean Front Walk
Santa Monica, CA, 90401

Beware of construction delays around Santa Monica, click here for more information.



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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