|Birth: ||Feb. 23, 1927|
Los Angeles County
|Death: ||Jun. 5, 1951|
Los Angeles County
Nicolas Rolando Gabaldon is not quite famous nationally, but he is credited by several experts in the sport of surf as being California's first documented surfer of African-American descent.
Despite being an amateur recreational surfer rather than a competing professional surfer, he is considered a role model for the surfer of color and is an integral part of surf history, as well as African American history in Santa Monica, California.
From the 1920s upwards into the 1950s, due to de facto segregation, there was only one beach in Southern California that racial minorities could use without harassment. That specific beach is still popular with African Americans in the Los Angeles area to this day.
During the 1940s, Nick learned how to surf at that 200 foot roped off part of Santa Monica State Beach informally referred to as "Inkwell Beach" or "Negro Beach." He befriended the lifeguards who allowed him to practise surfing using one of the wooden rescue surfboards. After graduating high school and serving an enlistment in the Naval Reserve during WWII, Nick enrolled in Santa Monica College. In addition to his studies, Nick also worked in a hospital and as a lifeguard, and duirng his spare time he perfected his surfing skills.
In the summer of 1949, Nick began to surf at Malibu's famed Surfrider Beach. Despite the times and his race, Nick was accepted without question amongst various famous mainland surfing pioneers...most of whom were white. Since he did not own a vehicle, Nick would get to Malibu either by hitching rides on the Pacific Coast Highway or using his surfboard to paddle the 12 miles north from Santa Monica to Malibu. According to the Encyclopedia of Surfing, Nick did this each day for several weeks.
On June 5, 1951, (some accounts cite June 6) Nick died when he crashed into the Malibu pier while attempting a move called taking a pier ride or "shooting the pier." His surfboard was found immediately but it would be several days before his body was found washed up on Las Flores beach, several miles east of the Pier. Most of his surfing companions attended his rosary and funeral at St. Monica Catholic Church. Nick is buried next to his mother, Cecelia, who died later that same year.
Six days prior to his death, Nick had submitted a poem for submission to the Santa Monica College literary magazine. It was entitled "Lost Lives" where he describes the sea as "capricious", "vindictive" and where men "do battle but still die." Some see the poem as being somewhat prophetic in light of how he died.
The capricious ocean so very strong,
Robust, powerful, can I be wrong?
Pounding, beating upon its cousin shore,
Comes it clapping, rapping with a mighty roar.
The sea vindictive, with waves so high,
For me to battle and still they die.
Many has it taken to its bowels below,
Without regards it thus does bestow,
Its laurels to unwary men.
With riches taken from ships gone by,
Its wet song reaches to the sky,
To claim its fallen manmade birds,
And plunge them into depths below,
With a nauseous surge.
Scores and scores have fallen prey,
To the salt of animosity,
And many more will victims be,
Of the capricious, vindictive sea.
O, avaricious ocean so very strong,
Robust, powerful, I'm not wrong.
Pounding, beating upon your cousin shore,
Come you clapping, rapping with a mighty roar.
In 2007, the city of Santa Monica approved a commemorative plaque honoring Ink Well Beach and Nick. It was placed near the beach on the corner of Bay Street and Ocean Blvd, and was officially dedicated in February 2008.
In 2012, a documentary on the life of Nick Gabaldon was released. It is entitled "12 Miles North: The Nick Gabaldon Story." You can see a picture of Nick and his friends surfing at this page: http://www.theinertia.com/business-media/12-miles-north-black-surf-documentary/
Cecilia Raines Gabaldon (1900 - 1951)
Los Angeles County
Plot: Grave C Lot 203 Blk 6-S
Created by: Sabrina Messenger
Record added: May 25, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 19523453