PHOTOS: Black Girls Surf Organizes Protest From Their Boards

Attendees at the Paddle Out Protest last week in Santa Monica. (Photo by Nicole Gormley)

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The protests that have swept the country and the world these last few weeks have largely happened in the streets. But last Friday, a group of demonstrators in Santa Monica decided to do things differently, heading into the ocean to memorialize the life of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality.

It was a "paddle out" organized, in part, by Black Girls Surf — a group that promotes surfing among girls and women of color. The founder is activist and surfer Rhonda Harper, who is based in Senegal.

Sayuri Blondt is the head of the L.A. and SoCal chapter of Black Girls Surf. (Photo by Matthew Reamer)

Sayuri Blondt is the head of the L.A. and SoCal chapter of Black Girls Surf. She told LAist/KPCC that unlike the march she joined in Beverly Hills:

"The paddle out felt more like we were coming to listen to each other. We know that we're hurting, but we wanted to gather together to heal in that space and we wanted to create a sense of memorial for the person that we were honoring."

A paddle-out is an ancient Hawaiian ritual where surfers form a circle with their boards in the water, maybe offer a prayer or token as a way of honoring the memory of someone who has passed.

On June 6, the paddlers offered yellow roses to honor Floyd.

The local surfing community is majority white, Sayuri said. So it felt significant for Black women to organize an event within a community that hasn't always included them.

"In Hawaii you're used to being surrounded by men and women of color in the water and so you don't necessarily see it as being a white sport," said Sayuri, who is originally from Oahu. "And then I came to the mainland, then I saw that there was more white males in the water and there were very few of us women of color and people of color in the water, so you kind of feel like a unicorn."

On the beach in Santa Monica, between 100-200 people gathered to hear speakers.

Sharon Schaffer, the first African American female pro surfer, was greeted by rousing applause and took the microphone in tears, audible even behind her mask.

"Thank you so much for acknowledging what us Black aquatic people have done to try to bring unity to the water," she said.

Sayuri says that the act of surfing actually helps her navigate these challenging times.

"When you're out there in the surf you quickly realize that being anxious about whether you catch a wave or not is not going to help you catch the wave...it's not going to help you walk on those waves. When you're in those times of uncertainty and confusion and anxiety, just being calm and taking a breath will get you through the situation... it's just like when you're out there surfing."

Now other surfing organizations are planning future paddle outs. To find out more, you can search the hashtag #solidarityinsurf on Instagram and Twitter.

Photos by Matthew Reamer and Nicole Gormley.

(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Matthew Reamer)
(Photo by Nicole Gormley)
(Photo by Nicole Gormley)
(Photo by Nicole Gormley)
(Photo by Nicole Gormley)
(Photo by Nicole Gormley)
(Photo by Nicole Gormley)
(Photo by Nicole Gormley)

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