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Santa Monica’s 'Inkwell' celebrated as a seminal spot for black surfers

Santa Monica
Santa Monica
Graham Smith via Flickr Creative Commons

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On Saturday, the nonprofit environmental group Heal the Bay is hosting an event at Bay Street in Santa Monica to honor the life of Nick Gabaldon (1927-1951), a pioneering African-American surfer who died at the age of 24 while shooting the Malibu pier, but who became a symbol of a multicultural beach community.

Bay Street, also known by locals as “the Inkwell,” has been a popular beach amongst Los Angeles’ African-American community since the Jim Crow era in the United States, when the idea of the beach harkened images of blond hair and blue eyes. The Inkwell is seen by many as a literal beach head in the battle for the rights of non-whites to recreate and enjoy the beauty of California’s beaches, and Gabaldon is a lesser-known but equally important character in the early modern history of surfing, when the activity bloomed in American culture.


Alison Rose Jefferson, public historian and one of the coordinators of the event to commemorate the life of Nick Gabaldon