Black surfers unite on ‘A Beautiful Day at The Stoke’ – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel
Last month, black surfers came together to celebrate their existence at A Great Day at The Stoke in Huntington Beach. Billed as the biggest gathering of black surfers, A Great Day at The Stoke included a surf competition, free yoga sessions and free surf lessons.
Event founder and travel influencer Nathan Fluellen drew inspiration from the WSL US Open and major African-American events like A Great Day in Harlem and A Great Day in Hip Hop. Fluellen, a Tennessee State University alum, envisioned a surfing event that had the feel of an HBCU homecoming weekend.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, black surfers were coming together to paddle out to honor the lives of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. It also inspired Fluellen to create an event that brought together a large group of black surfers.
“It will be the biggest gathering of black surfers in history where we can come together and just meet,” Fluellen said. “Over the years, through social media, we know each other, but we became friends through a screen.”
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As a board member of the surf education association Color The Water, Fluellen knew the impact of providing free surf lessons to African Americans. He also wanted to offer yoga because the movements mimic that of surfing and it promotes mental health awareness.
“I wanted to do events within the event, kind of appealing to a mass audience,” Fluellen said. “I wanted to push the envelope and give us permission to know that we have access to these spaces.”
The competition had categories for men, women and youth. Fluellen’s company, Kavata Swimwear, was one of the main sponsors. A percentage of every sale at Kavata goes towards raising awareness for triple negative breast cancer.
During the event, Fluellen honored Black Surf Association founder Tony Corley, first black female professional surfer Sharon Schaffer and @Black.Surfers founder Kayiita Johnson. In his acceptance speech, Corley thanked past and present black surfers for their contributions.
“That was my original vision, to come together as a family of surfers, black surfers and all the wealth that entails,” he said. “The whole world can see us.”
Fluellen calls Schaffer a “wave blazer” for her surfing career. She noted that she felt honored and grateful to be at A Great Day at The Stoke.
“We have come so far as a collective, we have our feet firmly planted in the sand, just taking our rightful place beside the water’s edge of the mother ocean that gives us so much love and so much joy” , said Schaffer.
Fluellen also presented Johnson with the Wave Blazer Award for his work on aggregating black surfers and his efforts to change policies that prevent children of color from learning swimming and water safety.
“Black people have been surfing since any of us think of history, I mean seventeen hundred, sixteen hundred in Africa,” Johnson said. “It’s something that will happen before us, it’s something that will continue after us.”