A Great Day in the Stoke highlights Black surfers, diversity at the coast – Orange County Register

It’s all about bringing positive vibes and experiences to the beach.

The second annual A Great Day in the Stoke, an event to spotlight Black competitive surfers and introduce others to the coastal community, was held in Huntington Beach on Saturday, Sept. 16, drawing hundreds of people to the sand and surf.

“It’s great to provide positive energy to the world,” said Nathan Fluellen, who created the inaugural event last year in response to the growing community of Black surfers.

The goal of the mini festival on the sand is to foster the growth of Black surfers who want to compete, inspire the Black community to feel welcome in the water, offer attendees the chance to take their first surf lesson or partake in yoga.

Fluellen is originally from Chicago, drawn to the water as a kid, but growing up never seeing anyone who looked like him swim or surf.

Now, Fluellen is part of a wave of Black surfers who are changing the culture, connecting with others on social media and holding events to make people of color feel welcome at the beach – where traditionally most surfers have been White, affluent males and there has been in some Southern California beach towns a history of segregation and racism.

A TV host who created the travel series “World Wide Nate,” Fluellen said he hopes that the next generation feels comfortable in the sea and embraces the sport of surfing.

Fluellen said he saw a shift in surf communities around the world in 2020 when surfers took a stand on the sand and during paddleouts in protest following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmad Aubrey and Brianna Taylor.

He wanted an event that drew people together, he said, not just in tragedy, but for fun.

“I was exhausted and wanted a few moments of positivity. We need to wake up and celebrate our existence and love for surfing,” he said of the inaugural event. “It was heartwarming, it was great to see it all come together and see the support and then just the feedback from everybody, how much the event meant to them and how special it was.”

Statistics show more Black surfers are joining the sport. While the majority of surfers in the United States remain White males, a study released earlier this year that tracks the sport’s participation highlighted a cultural shift in the sea, reporting more Black and Hispanic surfers taking up wave riding in recent years than ever before.

In the study, Black surfers made up the largest group for percentage growth, a 120% increase in the past five years, according to ActionWatch, which tracks the industry. The Black community made the third largest group in the water with 423,000 surfers compared to 218,000 surfers in 2019, a more than doubling of the participants.

Surf brands are starting to collaborate with Black and ethnic social groups and people such as  Selema Masekela, a well-known figure in the surf and skate world as a sport commentator and entrepreneur, have been spotlighting Black surf history. Two years ago, he authored the book  “AFROSURF” and had an exhibit at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente on “The Rise Of African Surf Culture.”

It’s gatherings like A Great Day in the Stoke and another, Ebony Beach Club in the South Bay held regularly at Dockweiler Beach, that are changing the landscape.

This year’s event had more than 60 surfers competing. Yoga classes were led by nonprofit Walk Good LA.

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