SANTA MONICA, Calif. — On Tuesday, a local surfer paddled his board 12 miles from Inkwell Beach, Santa Monica to the Malibu Pier to pay homage to Nick Galbadon — the first Black/Latino surfer in Los Angeles who was known to routinely paddle to Malibu to surf because he was not allowed on the beach.
Sand and salt water are usually always on the agenda for David Malana, but this summer has been much busier than usual. He came up with the idea of his nonprofit initiative, Color the Water, after going to a surf paddle-out event for George Floyd, the Minnesota man who died at the hands of white police officers in May.
The San Dimas native noticed very few people of color that day, and for those who were there, the disparity of surfing levels between the white surfers and those of color were starkly different.
“That was supposed to be a call to action, not the action in and of itself," said Malana. "So in that way, how do I make this...these anti-racist sentiments part of my daily practice?”
Malana's heart for others is hardwired in his soul. He has traveled the world, serving in the Peace Corps for five years after college. He now teaches media literacy has also founded a nonprofit, in honor of his late mother, where he gives free surf lessons and takes photos and videos for Black Indigenous people of color, or BIPOC.
"That is where I was trying to make sure that it wasn’t performative," Malana said, when asked about what it means to be a true ally. "And also because media was involved, I didn’t want it to be where I give one lesson, get the pictures and post it online. I wanted to develop autonomous surfers.”
After black.surfers Instagram posted a photo of Malana’s announcement, the community started to grow.
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I want to give a big shout out to @davidmalana and his #colorthewater movement. He has been selflessly giving lessons and filming #blacksurfers in #SantaMonica for months now and he is making a true impact. Show him some love! 🤙🏾 . . . #repost "I feel like I’m witnessing history... like the things I’m seeing and documenting could be seen by Roman (skate baby of @shugga626) when he gets older and goes to the Santa Monica surfing museum (@californiamermaidphotography). What I love about this first pic is that @malcolmexistential is standing in a way that I’d never seen a #surfer in this kind of pose stand. Strong, confident, black, and deservedly proud of all the progress he’s made in life and in the water. The next photo of @joihearts speaks to me so much about how far she’s come... from looking down to forward and finally to onward, and sharing what she’s learned so articulately with those around her. Then there is my guy @worldwidenate who’s figuring so much out... a man who represents the #blackexcellence that’s inspired and shaped me whole life so humbly and deftly taking all the advice from myself and the surf scientist @ryharrisshapes and really work on it. I can see our words churning in his mind in the few seconds of the life that is wave riding. Today @zizzy3 joined us too and maaaaan she flies! She and Joi shared so much wisdom and support for Jameelah that she caught a green wave and made the drop today like what! And of course there’s @rahzizi, fearlessly figuring it out, going for EVERYTHING and getting so much better so quickly in return. That last picture with Malcolm and Nate... it’s happening. My surfers are starting to see it... that elusive space where they no longer are just figuring it out... they are ready for more, and truly bringing each other along as a community, and in some ways, the beginnings of a family. Truly this is special, even if only to a few in practice and others in spirit, I’m so honored and grateful to be here, helping black excellence #colorthewater. If you wanna join us, the offer still stands. Free surf lessons and media for all BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color)...Also SHOUT OUT to @gauravk31 for the logo!
“So it's been really organic," he said. "I am really proud that the leadership of it also is majority Black. Black leadership is crucial in a project like this, where me as an Asian-American man, the best that I can do is to be an intermediary in this racial struggle. My father enjoyed a lot of the rights that he has off of the back of the civil rights movement, where the sacrifices were made mostly by the Black population. And so, in that way, I am very aware of who I am, and who I am not."
One of the leaders and co-founders of Color the Water is Malana's friend Liz Jackson, an active travel guide who is usually somewhere outdoors leading trips around world. But since the pandemic began, the Native Angeleno has been home and wanted to contribute to the cause.
"It literally starts with a hashtag, you know," said Jackson. "David put out this hashtag, 'Color the Water,' and all of a sudden people started showing up. And when we are out in the water, people, you know, there are people that are walking by, asking what’s going on and asking questions. You don’t have to have a big business plan or anything. Just throw it out there in the world and see how people respond to it."
"Black leadership is what helps and moves it forward and makes it grow into something very substantial," Malana said. "I think that is what is happening now."
The response to Color the Water is one that he hopes will make waves for as long as they can.