• The Breakdown
  • Posts
  • Largest gathering of Black surfers comes to SoCal 🏄🏾‍♂️

Largest gathering of Black surfers comes to SoCal 🏄🏾‍♂️

Plus, how one Black swim instructor is defying stereotypes

Hey y’all! I hope you’re excited because Saturday is the largest gathering of Black surfers in America at Huntington Beach. (We claim OC as Greater L.A. Don’t hate. 🤐) This is part of the second annual A Great Day In The Stoke, which was created to provide a safe space for Black surfers to connect, compete, build community and inspire. The day includes a surf contest, surf lessons, yoga, music and, most importantly—good vibes 😌🤙🏾😎

On that note, we’re kicking off coverage exploring the history and lived experiences of Black representation around swimming and the water. I hope this story inspires you to pick up a beach towel and head to Huntington!

Happy reading,
Shwetha

FEATURED STORY

Black man floats in an inner tube in a pool.

Jordan Hunter, founder of Legacy Aquatics. (Eliza Partika/AfroLA)

Black people have historically had a fraught relationship with water, leading to racist stereotypes that Black people don’t know how to swim. But, U.S. Navy Search and Rescue team veteran Jordan Hunter is disrupting this narrative. The mission of his organization, Legacy Aquatics, is to help other Black people embrace swimming and overcome generational traumas with the water, one lesson at a time.

Africans were historically steeped in maritime activity, but over time, swimming became discouraged for Black people. Enslaved Africans on ships bound for the Americas were thrown overboard, and Jim Crow-era lynchings involving water and segregated public swimming pools pushed Black people farther away from a desire to swim.

Racist incidents and policies have had massive consequences that affect Black people even today.

Sixty-four percent of Black children in the U.S. can’t swim, according to a 2021 study conducted by the YMCA. Drownings of Black Americans under the age of 30 increased by 24% from 2019 to 2020, according to a recent CDC study.

Understanding this underlying tension—and fear—for Black people new to swimming, Hunter approaches teaching with “cultural competency.”

“You can't underestimate the importance of having folks who look like you who have a little bit of lived experience, similar to yours.”

Trevell Anderson, one of Jordan Hunter’s long-time clients

The end result is making something that is “anxiety-inducing” and related to trauma more comfortable. Hunter prioritizes empathy in his lessons and takes on his clients’ deepest fears. For him, swimming is therapy to heal generational trauma related to swimming while Black. Beyond that, it’s a way to heal stereotypes, like that faced by another of Hunter’s clients, Aaricka Washington, who was told Black people can’t float.

Read the full story for more about how Hunter is opening up the world of swimming for Black people and his clients are finding peace and healing in the water.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

In this episode, Madison speaks with her sister Kendal and her mom, Neka, about what it is like living with myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles. Neka’s symptoms included extreme weight gain, loss of eyesight and trouble with balance. Neka was shocked by the lack of communication between her doctors, who didn’t know how her symptoms were interconnected, and she had to visit multiple doctors to eventually get a diagnosis.

Madison and Kendal say the silver lining of their mom’s diagnosis is how it brought their family closer together. 

Watch the episode for more about how autoimmune disease presents challenges for families—and how one family overcame them.

Support our journalism promoo

We hate to ask…but we absolutely cannot provide quality journalism without your support. We really see the value of what we're highlighting in our community, and we hope you do, too. If you enjoy our content and want to support local news, please donate to AfroLA. You won’t regret it. (Pinky swear.)

What do you think about The Breakdown?

If you received this email from a friend, sign up for The Breakdown newsletter. Your inbox will thank you. 😄