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Paddle-out at La Jolla Shores supports Black Lives Matter

"RIP George Floyd" is written in the sand as community members participate in a paddle-out June 5 at La Jolla Shores.
“RIP George Floyd” is written in the sand as community members participate in a paddle-out in Floyd’s honor the evening of June 5 at La Jolla Shores.
(Savanah Duffy)

Surfers, kayakers, paddleboarders and others gathered in peaceful protest for an evening paddle-out June 5 at La Jolla Shores to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Organizer Leanne Tibiatowski of Groundswell Community Project, a surfing therapy organization for women dealing with trauma, said the paddle-out was in response to the deaths of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes May 25, and Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by police in her home in Louisville, Ky., on
March 13.

Demonstrations have been held nationwide recently to protest racial inequalities and police brutality.

Hundreds of surfers and other supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement gathered June 6 at Tourmaline Surfing Park in north Pacific Beach for a Paddle for Peace event to honor the life of George Floyd, whose death in police custody May 25 in Minneapolis has sparked protests throughout the country against racial injustice and police brutality.

“What we do is help people navigate trauma, and this is a very traumatic time,” Tibiatowski said. “It’s a time of grief and a time of uprising, and we wanted to support in a cross-cultural way. The intention is to come together in peace and prayer, to come together to respect and mourn the lives lost, to take a stand for our black brothers and sisters, and all indigenous and people of color.”

With that goal in mind, Groundswell reached out to Black Girls Surf, a development camp for black girls and women wanting to pursue a career in surfing, as well as Native Like Water, representing indigenous communities. Native Like Water suggested the paddle-out take place at La Jolla Shores, a parcel of which was declared historic by the San Diego Historical Resources Board in 2018 due to its proximity to the Mut kula xuy/Mut lah hoy ya site, where artifacts and remains of native tribes have been found.

People head out on surfboards, paddleboards and kayaks in a protest paddle-out organized by Groundswell Community Project.
(Savanah Duffy)

“We are an inclusive organization,” Tibiatowski said of Groundswell, “and there is not as much representation as we believe can be possible, even in our own organization and in the surf community. So we are actively stepping out.”

While waiting on the beach with her surfboard before the paddle-out, Shirley Pereira said she would love to attend other protests, “but we also have a pandemic and I’m in an age group now where I can’t just be around thousands and thousands of people.”

“But we all need to do something,” she said. “It’s not just one group of people. We all have to do something. So this is the least we can do — paddle out.”

While some on the beach prepared to head into the water, others waited on the shore and lined the sea wall, some holding signs to show their support.

“I’m just here to support the immigrant, black, brown, Latino, Asian community,” Kaitlin Lelles said. “We’re all in this together. … We need to stand in unity right now, and the last week or so has really made me reflect on my rhetoric as a white person and I realized I have not been as supportive as I can be. And I want to be, right now.”

Kaitlin Lelles and Canon Purdy hold signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement on June 5 at La Jolla Shores.
(Savanah Duffy)

Canon Purdy said: “I’m really excited to be here and support the surfing community and highlighting the diversity of the surfing community. We often think of it as like a white, blond boy sport. But it’s actually a really inclusive, diverse community, especially here in San Diego, and so I think it’s a really great event to take part of and support Black Lives Matter.”

Kuuipo Kekawa leads paddle-out participants in a "calling in of the ancestors" chant and blessing at La Jolla Shores.
(Savanah Duffy)

Once those in the paddle-out reached open water, everyone formed a large circle clearly visible from the shoreline.

A moment of silence was held for Floyd and Taylor, and one participant invited the group to sing “Happy Birthday” to Taylor, who would have turned 27 that day.

Participants held flowers and tossed them in the ocean in memory of Floyd, Taylor and other black lives lost, according to Tibiatowski.

Harley Sobreo and event organizer Leanne Tibiatowski attend the paddle-out at La Jolla Shores to support Black Lives Matter.
Harley Sobreo and event organizer Leanne Tibiatowski attend the June 5 paddle-out at La Jolla Shores to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
(Savanah Duffy)

“I think it turned out beautiful,” she said after the paddle-out. “There was a very diverse and open group of people. Our intent was to hold a peaceful space, and that’s what happened. People used their voices and had a space to connect and come together in unity. I can’t think of a better outcome.”

The May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest, has been at the forefront of renewed outcry, anger and debate over race relations in the United States, both in regard to police and society in general.

After returning to shore, Ryan Luna told the Light: “I just wanted to stand in solidarity with everyone affected, and by being here I was hoping to connect with people on a spiritual level and just promote love to everybody.

“Ideally I came out here for George Floyd and that remembrance and everyone affected from that, but also [it’s] a good reminder to understand that a lot of people are affected by oppression.”

Participant Ryan Luna said he wanted to “connect with people on a spiritual level and just promote love to everybody."
Paddle-out participant Ryan Luna said he wanted to “connect with people on a spiritual level and just promote love to everybody.”
(Savanah Duffy)

Participant Matt Lyons said he “came out here to represent people, because being able to represent other people is a privilege. I have that privilege, so I wanted to do that. Being out there with everyone really let me know how many other people are willing to come together for disenfranchised communities. And I just hope it doesn’t stop when it’s inconvenient.”

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