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‘The beach belongs to everyone’: Local organizations celebrate Juneteenth and International Surf Day together

About 30 volunteer surf instructors gave lessons to about 40 surfing newbies for International Surf Day and Juneteenth.
About 30 volunteer surf instructors gave lessons to some 40 surfing newbies during a joint celebration of International Surf Day and Juneteenth on June 19 in La Jolla Shores.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

About 80 people gathered in La Jolla Shores on June 19 in a hybrid celebration planned by two organizations determined to share their love for the ocean and spread the word about diversity and conservation.

The event, a partnership between Surfrider Foundation San Diego County and Paddle for Peace, a nonprofit begun in response to the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, commemorated both International Surf Day and Juneteenth. The latter, which marks the end of slavery in the United States in 1865, became a federal holiday when President Joe Biden signed legislation last week.

Surfrider started International Surf Day in 2005 “to celebrate surfing and the beach and give the Surfrider volunteers and the Surfrider world a day to take ... off from all the activism and advocacy that we do 365 days a year to protect our ocean waves and beaches for all people and focus on really just celebrating why we do this work in the first place,” chapter manager Mitch Silverstein said.

The day was not entirely without activism: The schedule included Surfrider’s beach cleanup and zero-waste barbecue, marked by stainless-steel cups and reusable plates.

There also was a yoga class and a group surf lesson attended by about 40 newcomers to surfing and 30 volunteer instructors, organized by Paddle for Peace.

The International Surf Day/Juneteenth celebration included a yoga class, beach cleanup, surf lesson and zero-waste barbecue.
The International Surf Day/Juneteenth celebration June 19 in La Jolla included a yoga class, beach cleanup, surf lesson and zero-waste barbecue.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Risa, the founder of Paddle for Peace who keeps her last name private to separate the organization from her job and “to keep the focus off me,” said Juneteenth “is a really big deal. It’s important for this generation to educate themselves on what it is and bring it to the forefront and celebrate it as it should be.”

Risa, who also is a Surfrider volunteer, said planning a dual holiday event with Surfrider happened “organically,” as “diversity is really important to [Surfrider], and my organization focuses solely on that. I wanted to introduce them to Surfrider and all the good that we do there. This is a passion project for both of us.”

The event’s theme was “the beach belongs to everyone.”

The organizations chose La Jolla Shores because it was logistically the best place for the event, Risa said, but it also served to show “the Black surf community that ‘Hey, you can also be here and there are residents that support and welcome everyone.’”

“We need to diversify our demographic,” Silverstein said. “We want to help and we want to be on the right side of history here in terms of creating a stronger, more diverse, more inclusive, more equitable community of people who stand up for the coast and ... the protection of the coast.”

He said Surfrider and Paddle for Peace “are really working to bring all people together with a shared love for the ocean and a shared interest in protecting it.”

The theme of the weekend event was "the beach is for everyone."
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Since Paddle for Peace was formed a year ago, “it’s grown significantly,” organizing not only paddle-out protests but also a breast cancer research fundraiser and a toy drive for an orphanage in Mexico, among other pursuits, Risa said.

“It’s really a community effort,” she said. “I’m just so happy that we have that resource to be able to come together and do good things and build that community bond. We’ve done a lot and we’re going to continue to do a lot, and we’re super excited.”

Lily Nguyen participated in the beach cleanup at the June 19 event. “I don’t get in the water,” she said. “I thought I could help by being on the land.”

“We live here with our children, our future children,” Nguyen said. “We don’t want to be next to trash.”

Michelle Harper also didn’t get in the water, instead watching her new-to-surfing husband.

“It’s nice to see people of color ... gathering together in non-traditional ways,” Harper said.

“It brings more diversity to the beach,” said Ann Trombley, Harper’s friend. “It just includes everybody.”

Surfrider Foundation San Diego County serves vegetarian fare on reusable plates as part of its zero-waste barbecue.
Surfrider Foundation San Diego County serves vegetarian fare on reusable plates as part of its zero-waste barbecue June 19 in La Jolla Shores.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Those with and without surfboards reconvened in Kellogg Park for meals from the barbecue.

“The point [of the barbecue] is we’re trying not to contribute any unnecessary waste,” Silverstein said.

The food — burgers, hot dogs and chips — was all vegetarian or vegan “to lessen our impact in terms of climate,” Silverstein said. “Meat is very carbon-intense and resource-intense and water-intense, and so these things contribute to climate change and greenhouse gases much more than most people realize.” ◆