Nick Gabaldón Day, African American Beach Culture Heritage and Ocean Stewardship
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On the beach at Nick Gabaldón Day, June 4, 2016, Bay Street/Inkwell monument site, Santa Monica, California. Portrait of NG by Richard Wyatt. Photography courtesy of Meredith McCarthy, Heal the Bay.

Nick Gabaldón Day, a celebration of African American beach culture heritage with introductory surf lessons and experiences with ocean stewardship was held this year on Saturday, June 4. The Bay Street/Inkwell monument site, Heal the Bay’s Aquarium, Santa Monica High and the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook Park were venues for the multifaceted programming leading up to and on Nick Gabaldón Day. Here you can view highlights of this year’s programming. Two thousand sixteen marks the fifth year of this celebration and each year different events have been added as part of the programming to engage audiences in learning about our shared history, social action and nature conservation intersecting with the enjoyment of the beach.

On February 7, 2008, the city of Santa Monica officially recognized this important Jim Crow era, African American gathering place controversially called “the Inkwell,” as well as Nick Gabaldón, the first documented surfer of African- and Mexican-American descent, with a landmark monument at Bay Street and Oceanfront Walk. In the celebration of our American, California and Santa Monica heritage, we are encouraged to take a harder look at the complex layers of our history. Although some may not recognize it, these stories of the Bay Street/Inkwell site and Nick Gabaldón are part of American history. All of us, no matter how recently arrived, share in these stories.

This 2016 educational and recreational programming was made possible by the Black Surfers Collective (BSC), Surf Bus Foundation, Heal the Bay, the Santa Monica Conservancy, the California State Coastal Conservancy, The Bay Foundation and other organizations. Many media pieces appeared about the programming in the regional online and print media.  

Amanda Scurlock, sports writer for the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper covered the event. She did a video story on the June 4 day at the beach side which made its online debut July 23, 2016. Also check out her article on the programming which appeared in the newspaper on June 15, 2016.


Nick Gabaldón Day, June 4, 2016. Newbie surfers learning to catch a wave at Santa Monica’s Bay Street/Inkwell monument site. Photography courtesy of Rahassan Nichols.

The Santa Monica Mirror staff also did a cute short video story about the event. You can view many photographs of the beach side and other activities at the Facebook page of the Black Surfers Collective and on my (Alison Rose Jefferson) page and on the web (with the search term, Nick Gabaldon Day 2016).


Actor/playwright Roger Guenveur Smith (pictured with BSC’s William Lamar (surfer, actor and film producer) and historian Alison Rose Jefferson joined the Nick Gabaldón Day celebration to observe and participate in the surfers experiences of joy, self-fulfillment and education. Smith is writing a play with Richard Montoya (Culture Clash) for The Los Angeles Music Center Theatre Group called “American Venice” which will include some characters and scenes of African American beach life. Bay Street/Inkwell monument site — the Jim Crow era, African American beach hangout spot, Santa Monica, California. (4 June 2016) Photography courtesy of Lisa Tompkins.



Nick Gabaldón Day 2016 celebration at the Bay Street/Inkwell monument site —  the Jim Crow era African American beach hangout spot in Santa Monica, California. (4 June 2016) Courtesy of the Black Surfers Collective Facebook page.

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