Surfing is the grandfather of snowboarding and skateboarding. I recently watched Nike's newly released inspirational documentary 12 Miles North: The Nick Gabaldon Story, the legacy of a surfer who died doing what he loved. Nick Gabaldon, born Nicolás Rolando Gabaldón, is recognized as the first documented African-American surfer. Gabaldon, also of Mexican descent, grew up in Santa Monica, California during the 1930's and 40's. At that time, to avoid racial tension, minorities and people color established their own part of the beach, the "Inkwell," to peacefully enjoy the waves and sunshine. Nick loved spending time at the beach body surfing, when he saw the lifeguards with their wooden boards it sparked his interest in surfing.
Words by: Richie P.
Nick was always in search of the best wave (like many surfers), so he paddled an extraordinary 12 miles to Malibu, the epicenter of surfing. In Malibu, he quickly earned his respect surfing with a group of white surfers, not because of his color (to them color did not matter) but because of his skills. The distance that Nick traveled also amazed the Malibu surfers. He became apart of the tight-knit surfing brotherhood. Most of the brotherhood (now surfing pioneers and veterans) described Nick as great surfer with graceful form and genuine character.
Here's the trailer, the link to stream the whole thing is at the end of this article:
Throughout 12 Miles North, Nick is credited for breaking down barriers of color in surfing. Tony Corley, the founder of the Black Surfing Associationalso speaks on Nick's impact. The film also features commentary by other professional athletes who overcame differences in sports due to race, gender and disability, such as, BMX rider Nigel Sylvester, Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones, WNBA basketball pro Lisa Leslie and Iron Man Champion Sarah Reinertsen. Ultimately, Nick Gabaldon's story continues to inspire a lot of people.
In 1951, Nick Gabaldon tragically drowned in a surfing accident while executing the stunt," shooting the pier." It's so unfortunate that his life was cut short. Nick would have certainly been among the ranks in the surfing hall of fame with his Malibu buddies. The legacy of Nick Gabaldon still lives on.
I encourage you to watch 12 Miles North while it is still available, it is about 30 minutes long. It is available for stream on HERE.
* Richie P's blog.