Finding Wellness, Community, and Black Joy Through Surfing

These kinds of organizations also exemplify the importance of community centered in wellness. In my personal life, they’ve helped me go from being an extremely passive surfer to an athlete who’s taking charge in the sport. As one of their members once said, “We have to get a glimpse of a reality before it can become our dream.” These groups have helped create a reality that’s been a springboard for my personal growth.

Just weeks into being embraced by the Laru Beya Collective, I was able to see how community can help individuals create the confidence and resilience they need to take healthy risks that assist in growth. The group showed me that a dream life is possible, and one I’d be supported in.

For me, that’s a life centered on my love for the ocean, wellness, and mentorship. I want to directly impact the lives of young people by encouraging them to believe in themselves and to create a world they want to live in. And while Laru Beya’s mission is to uplift and encourage kids through surf, they’ve been able to curate a culture that influences and supports every single person connected to the organization.

Joy. Resilience. Support. All in the Black Surf Community

There is a sense of celebration when you’re able to feel and see the presence of Black joy in the water. It’s palpable. Black people have always taken up space in American waters: The Pea Island Life Saving Station in North Carolina’s Outer Banks was staffed solely by African Americans in the second half of the 1800s, for example, and Allen Light was a well-known Black mariner who worked up and down the California coast decades before the Civil War. But their presence simply wasn’t talked about enough until recently.

The erasure of such Black aquatic history, as well as historic systemic exclusion of Black Americans from water spaces, has led the masses to believe that Black people don’t belong in the water — a belief found across all communities.

But as with the federal acknowledgment of Juneteenth — the June 19 commemoration of the 1865 emancipation of enslaved Black Americans in Texas, more than two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation — these histories are finally being discussed and seen.

To have the privilege of surfing with other people who look like me is the best way to celebrate such a monumental day in history.

Juneteenth has always been a celebration of independence and freedom, but it only became a national holiday in 2021 following the wave of anti-racist activism in response to the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others. So in my heart, I wonder: Does the Black community have to wait until something negative happens for white and mainstream culture to acknowledge their history and contributions?

While barbecues and parades may be some traditional Juneteenth celebrations, these have not been my reality. In the most recent years, I’ve commemorated Juneteenth by surfing with a community that exudes Black joy and freedom. When I look back further, since I started surfing, I’ve always surfed on Juneteenth. But to have the privilege of surfing with other people who look like me has brought me to tears. In my world, it’s the best way to celebrate such a monumental day in history.

This content was originally published here.

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