Come Meet Nick Gabaldón: The First African American Surfer, Who Was Forced To Paddle 12 Miles Just To Surf Malibu
And who died, tragically but endearingly, trying to shoot the pier.
The events of the last three(ish) weeks have prompted much retrospection.
Whilst it’s been staggering how many of the young white liberals in my social feed are suddenly shocked that European colonisers were unpleasant to Africans at the end of the 1800s (!), delving into oft-overlooked local history (how people came to settle where you live, why things are named as they are etc.), especially when you live somewhere with an Indigenous people like Australia, is worthwhile. Taking our locality as surf in general (and, thankfully, surfing appears to be becoming more inclusive), recent trawling has brought to light the fascinating life of Nick Gabaldón, widely regarded as the first African American surfer.
The story of the handsome African American/Mexican’s story won’t be news to many of our Southern Californian counterparts. There’s even been a day to commemorate the great man, held at the Santa Monica pier. But for those unfamiliar with the tale of LA county’s trailblazing (for once, an apt use of the cliché) black surfer, here’s some of the most interesting vignettes from the documentary up top, funded, somewhat strangely, by Nike.
Nick was a Santa Monica local, spending most of his time at the “Inkwell”, a piece of segregated sand just up the beach from the infamous pier. Nick became enamoured with the ocean and learned to bodysurf, and when local lifeguard (soon to become big wave pioneer/counter culture icon) Buzzy Trent saw him whomping he told him to start surfing proper. Once Nick had picked it up, his focus turned to the jewel in the LA surf crown: Malibu. Nick used to paddle 12 miles to surf Malibu (many have considered it whilst sat in traffic on the PCH) because a black guy carting a surf craft on land was problematic. Stop and consider that for a moment.
Gabaldón counted a smattering of genuine surfing treasures amongst his peers: Buzzy, Peter Cole, Mickey Munoz, who said: “I guess it was unique that Nick was black, but I don’t think that anyone really thought that much about it. I think what really mattered was that he was a good guy and he surfed.” And those still living wax lyrical about his surfing prowess and genuine personality. Ultimately Nick met his end in the most core 40s surf manner imaginable, drowning after hitting a pylon whilst trying to shoot the pier on a big south swell, and it’s touching how choked up recalling his death still makes the interviewees in the film, even after all these years. Makes you think what surfing could have been like with a bona fide black figure amongst the sport’s founding fathers.
Long Read: An Angel At My Table
From Stab Issue 15, October 2006: Chris Davidson has one more shot at the big…
Watch: Kalani David’s Last Dance
A final surf part from the Hawaiian surf/skate prodigy.
Taylor Steele Won’t Let Surf Filmmaking Die Without a Fight
Movies shown, filmmaking advice, punk rock at the 2022 Solento Surf Festival.
Wait, Are We Going To See Moana Jones In The Olympics At Teahupo’o?
Team USA (women) and Japan (men) should be able to choose anyone they want to…
Donald Brink and Matt Biolos Win Mick Fanning’s Electric Acid Surfboard Test
And we had a party in Oceanside to celebrate.
Kanoa Igarashi and Kirra Pinkerton Answer Call Of Duty, Win Medals Of Honor In 2022 ISA World Games
Teams Japan, USA, and France move into Victor’s Village.
The Best Euro Surf Trips That Mightn’t Be On Your Radar
Want to know which less-trodden nation offers the most potential?
Former CT Surfer Chris Davidson Passes Away At Age 45
A radical life tragically ends outside a bar in New South Wales.
The Team Ukraine Interview
“There are mines near the shore, and already a lot of people have died…so it’s…
Mormaii Founder Raided By Brazilian Feds On Suspicion Of Plotting Against Democracy
Curiously, he's the second surf brand founder to become entangled in a political scandal of…
The Electric Acid Surfboard Test With Mick Fanning, Episode 4
There are three boards left. Which one is Mick taking home?
Photos: Welcome To Vans Stab High Indonesia, Presented By Monster Energy
Welcome to Lakey Peak. Now do airs.
Taro Watanabe Is The Love Child Of Your Favorite 80’s Surfers
Watch his new edit 'Sonic Youth' now.
The Four-Finned, Carbon-Wrapped, Vacuum-Bagged Board That Won The 2022 World Title
The minds behind Sharp Eye and Dark Arts break down Filipe's winning plank.
Selema Masekela Discusses The New Film “Sweet Adventure,” A New Love For El Salvador and His Not-So-New Music Career
"It's literally the entirety of my life coming full circle in a way that I…