Lesson of the day: “Black surfers are back on the waves”

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Featured Article: “Black surfers take their place on the wavesBy Diane Cardwell

The history of surfing in the black community can be traced to centuries-old African wave surfing practices. Although many black Americans were separated from this tradition because of slavery and racism, many learned Polynesian surfing in the mid-1900s on separate beaches. Today, many black surfers talk about their shared history and the lingering racism in the surfing community.

In this interactive article, you will learn about black surfers through images, videos and interview clips. Then you will reflect on the themes of the article and learn more about the current stories and experiences of black surfers.

Scroll through the article and watch the photos and video clips. In general, what do you notice? What tone do the images give to the article? What emotions do you feel when you watch them?

Then choose a photo to focus on and answer these questions:

  • What is happening in the picture?

  • What details set you apart?

  • How does the image make you feel? What memories does it evoke from your life?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. What is a paddle-out? What are some of the reasons black surfers have been hosting paddle boarding outings over the past year and a half?

2. What does surfing mean and represent for black surfers in particular?

3. How does Natalie Hubbard, surgeon and surfer of the Laru Beya Collective, connect the history of surfing in the black community to the present day?

4. What is the history of Ink Well Beach? How were actions carried out there in a similar way to other actions carried out during the civil rights movement?

5. How was the Black Surfing Association born? And how has it developed since the 1970s?

6. In what ways have brands and movies started to support black surfers?

In a class discussion or in your journal, reflect on what you have just read. What are your reactions to the article? What questions do you ask yourself after reading it? What image or quote did you find particularly powerful? How do the topics in the article relate to your life and experiences?

Additional teaching and learning opportunities

  • Read about a black surfer community. Gabriella Angotti-Jones, documentary photographer, shares her surf community through photographs and a first-person narrative. How does his story relate to the article you just read?

  • Discover the Instagram account of Hunter Jones. Instead of entering contests, he focuses on creating his own content for social media. What do you notice when browsing his posts?

  • Find out more Duke Kahanamoku. He was born in Honolulu in 1890 and won a total of five swimming medals at the Olympics in the early 20th century, but also sailed between two cultures and two sports: swimming and surfing. How does Duke’s life story provide insight into the history of surfing in the United States?

  • Watch a video. The beginning of the article quotes Sharon Schaffer, the first black woman to become a professional surfer. Check out this six-minute video of her talk to the surfing community, or the trailer for the 2011 black surf documentary, “White Wash.” How do these short videos contribute to your understanding of the challenges and triumphs of black surfers?


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