27
May
11

History of the Black Surf Culture

Diversity is very important to Dominion Stage. Whether it’s featuring racially and ethnically diverse casts on stage (see the cast from this season’s Altar Boyz or the current production about to go up, Psycho Beach Party, for example) or shows that deal with issues of race, religion, discrimination, or sexual orientation (past seasons: Jeffrey, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Fat Pig, Altar Boyz, and in the upcoming seasons, Dreamgirls and Take Me Out). While preparing and researching the 60′s beach culture for Psycho Beach Party, we wondered about diversity within the surfer world of that time. Here is a little of what we found about the pioneers of the black surf culture on a blog for The Surfing Heritage Foundation.

Nick Galbadon

In the early 1940′s the tall, handsome and athletic Nick Galbadon first learned to surf on a 200 foot roped off stretch of Santa Monica Beach established for Negroes only, called The Inkwell. As The 1940′s drew to a close Nick began showing up regularly to surf the perfect waves at Malibu beach.

Nick Galbadon History of the Black Surf Culture

In time Nick was accepted without question into the small and prestigious group of Malibu locals. To them Nick was known as “a handsome, well liked guy with great surfing ability”. Legend has it that Nick was a particularly strong guy and would try to stay in the water all day and until late in the evening. When he was unable to get a ride up to Malibu he would often paddle the 10 miles from Santa Monica.

Surf pic History of the Black Surf Culture
This is the sub-headline line of the article for the Magazine The Surfer’s Path (issue #44)

EBONY PIONEER NICK GABALDON FIRST LEARNED TO SURF AT THE “INKWELL”, A 200 FT ROPED-OFF STRETCH OF SANTA MONICA BEACH DESIGNATED “FOR NEGROES ONLY”. BUT BY THE LATE 1940″S, NICK BEGAN SHOWING UP RGULARLY AT MALIBU, WHERE HE WAS ACCEPTED WITHOUT QUESTION INTO THE ELITE GROUP OF LOCALS. AN EXTRAORDINARY ATHLETE AND A PRODIGIOUS PADDLER, GABALDON OPENED THE WAY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS OF “SURFERS OF COLOR”

On June 5, 1951 one of the strongest south swells in memory slammed into the California coast at Malibu Beach. On that fateful afternoon, he rode his last wave at Malibu. It was a big one, the kind that on most days you only dream of. There are many accounts of the accident, all agree that on the wave, he just seemed to go and go, like he was in a trance, as if being summoned by the spirits. As he neared the pier he kept gliding and gliding, like it wasn’t even there. Then he disappeared.

According to Doc Ball, founding father of one of California’s first surfboarding organizations, The Palos Verdes Surf Club, Nick was probably the first Black Surfer because in the thirties they counted among their white membership: one Hispanic and one Japanese American. No Blacks. Although stories existed of maybe a Black surfer at San Onofre or some guy at Windansea, most surfing pioneers knew Nick personally.

Frank Edwards

In the early 1960′s surfing was becoming extremely popular along the California coast. Everywhere you turned a new post-Gidget surf culture was springing up. Born in a small town in Alabama, Frank Edwards moved to California to live with his relatives.

Frank1 300x136 History of the Black Surf Culture
Frank Edwards, a standout on the track team as well as the lineup

His tremendous surfing ability helped to make Frank very popular and although he was the only Black person in his high school, he was elected senior class president and secretary of the Bay Cities Surf Club.

Frank2 300x240 History of the Black Surf Culture
Frank in action

Frank was a member of the Jacobs Surf Team and he represented us well in numerous surf competitions. Legend has it that on those big, big days at Redondo Breakwater’s outer reef, that only Frank along with hall of fame surfer Greg Noll would dare to surf. Ebony Magazine printed a feature story about Frank in 1963.

Frank’s trailblazing spirit opened the door to many young Black surfers to follow.

Stanley Washington

Stanley 300x114 History of the Black Surf Culture

In the late 1960′s there emerged a unique individual within the California’s local surf scene. His name was Stanley Washington Frison, of Alabama, and he was one of the Malibu’s pathfinders. There was no question about it. Stanley was unforgettable with a gapping hole where his front teeth had been and with the sharp wit and tongue of a poet. For twelve years, he stood as a fixture of blacksurfing through the 70′s. Influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Arthur Lee, Stanley styled his rock persona and was one of the stars of the Malibu surf scene for a decade. Being such a conspicuous figure, Stanley rode for the Wilken Surf Team and Con Surfboards (clubs.)

Whenever visiting surf celebrities came to Malibu, they had to first check in and pay their respects to Stanley Washington. He could surely give them the scoop on the latest happenings on the Malibu and Santa Monica party scene.
During the late 70′s, Stanley moved to the Hawaiian Islands pursue his surfing career and develop a family. Although he rarely surfs today, Stanley Washington has made his undeniable mark on California’s surfing industry.

- Memories provided by Rick Blocker, photos by Rich Wilken

PBP 297x300 History of the Black Surf Culture

Psycho Beach Party
By Charles Busch

Directed by Emily Ann Jablonski
Produced by David M. Moretti and Larissa Norris
Stage Managed by Chris Thorn

“Gidget”, Frankie and Annette beach party epics and Hitchcock psychological suspense thrillers such as “Spellbound” and “Marnie” are given a shotgun marriage. Chicklet Forrest, a teenage tomboy, desperately wants to be part of the surf crowd on Malibu Beach in 1962. One thing getting in her way is her unfortunate tendency towards split personalities. Among them is a black check out girl, an elderly radio talk show hostess, a male model named Steve and the accounting firm of Edelman and Edelman. Her most dangerous alter ego is a sexually voracious vixen named Ann Bowman who has nothing less than world domination on her mind.

Performances
Selected Dates June 3 – 18, 2011

Performance Location: Gunston Arts Center—2700 S. Lang Street, Arlington, VA 22206

Tickets are only $15 and you can purchase them ahead of time by clicking here.

For more information on the show or Dominion Stage, visit our website.


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