When protests broke out after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020, surfers around the United States demonstrated their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and pursuit of social equality by staging “paddle outs” at beaches around the country.
A traditional surfing paddle out features group of surfers paddling out past the breaking waves and coming together in a circle. Originally a means of honoring someone in the community that’s passed away, today the paddle out is utilized to convey all sorts of meanings, including unity in the pursuit of equality and social justice.
In early June, activist and surfer Danielle Lyons Black and a group of organizers rallied friends and family for a paddle out at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Her friend and longtime personality in the board sports world, Selema Masekela, delivered an impassioned speech to a crowd of thousands.
“It was a moment that literally saved me, it was transformative,” Masekela testifies.
“Selema spoke and absolutely brought me to tears. It lit a fire under my butt and was super inspiring,” Ryan Harris explains, who attended the paddle out.
A surfer who owns and operates his own eco-driven surfboard label, Earth Technologies, Harris is also a longtime friend of both Lyons Black and Masekela.
“I hadn’t posted anything to social about Black Lives Matter. I had not spoken on the matter at all,” he continues. “Then there was the paddle out in Encinitas that went mainstream. Danielle and her group put it together and that’s when everything changed.”
After the paddle out, Harris, Lyons Black and Masekela, along with their friend and pro surfer Hunter Jones, decided the next logical step was to figure out a way to formalize a platform that could help educate and guide people through the tangled web of social justice and equality, as well as environmental issues facing coastal communities.
“There is a lot of goodwill out there and a lot of people that want to help, but they don’t necessarily know how to,” Lyons Black explains. “That’s a hard thing to figure out. There are a lot of fly-by-night orgs popping up and GoFundMe is not always the most credible space to donate funds. So, we wanted to give people a proper channel they could trust and find some of the groups that we believe in and are supporting."
For Jones, launching a surf-minded movement that confronted a lot of the issues that he faces daily was not only important, it was imperative.
“I grew up not really having someone who looked like me to look up to,” Jones says. “Selema was probably the person that I saw and identified the most as a kid, and now, years later, here we are working together on this. I met Ryan at El Porto. It’s cool to see how far we’ve come and how we’re all working together now.”
“When Hunter told me that for the first time, it blew me away. When you realize that somebody has been watching you, and that they’ve been a guiding light, it really puts things in perspective and forces you to evaluate what you are doing and how you’re living your life,” Masekela responds.
In mid-June, the four launched their new collective: 1 Planet One People. And by Juneteenth—the celebration of Freedom Day in the African American community on June 19—Lyons Black had built a website and they officially launched. The following day, June 20, was International Surfing Day. It appeared as if the stars had aligned.
“This time, this moment, it was fortuitous. And to come together with people that have all had shared experiences and be working towards the greater good, that’s what this moment is all about,” Masekela explains.
In terms of goals, the objectives for 1 Planet One People were clear: they wanted to provide a trustworthy platform where people could find information about the organizations that are working on the frontlines to enact necessary change. Anxious to get their work out to the world, uniting impassioned people was something else they felt was imperative to the forward progress of the movement.
As a collective, our goal is to educate people on issues that deal with social justice, systemic change, as well as the planet.
“Things are so fluid right now and our world seems to change so fast, I think right now we’re just in the moment and letting this movement guide and dictate how things are going to roll out,” Lyons Black continues. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities coming our way, so I think right now the most important thing is to just keep that momentum going and keep the foot on the gas. Time will tell where this is going, it’s such a new thing. It’s been a labor of love and we just want to continue to add more resources and build the community, as well as hopefully get more people to donate dollars to help resource the things that we all care about.”
In terms of dollars, in their first attempt at fundraising, Harris is putting his skills in the shaping bay to good use. He’s built an exquisite surfboard to be raffled off. The funds raised will go towards organizations vetted and supported by 1 Planet One People, with some of the money supporting social justice organizations and some going to environmental groups.
“I thought nobody was going to listen to me on my platform because all I do is make surfboards, but that’s where Selema said, ‘That’s why you're wrong, dude. You’re Black and you’re a shaper. There’s like, none of you, so people are especially gonna listen to you,’” Harris explains. “Not even 15 minutes after that, Stab Magazine called, and I did an interview with them. That piece came out and literally the next day my phone blew up. All of a sudden, I felt like I had a voice. I shared some stories and more Black surfers started reaching out. I just started getting this fire. I reached out to Danielle and said, ‘We gotta do something.’”
“We want to choose organizations that maybe weren’t getting enough love,” Lyons Black adds. “It’s constantly changing how much these groups are funded. For example, we know the NAACP is fully funded, but they’re diverting their funds into other spaces. We wanted to spread out the funding to other organizations that we care about, keeping in mind of the balance between supporting systemic and racial justice and environmental climate action. That’s been our thought process in terms of how we’re choosing the groups we’re backing.”
The raffle for the board Harris made ended on July 14. They have plans to raffle off more boards in the future so they can continue to distribute funds and work towards developing their platform.
“We wanted to create a movement where people can come to our website and get educated on some of the resources and groups that are out there taking on issues of racial injustice and climate action,” Jones explains. “We thought it was important to create a hub for people to get educated and to learn more about those things. In light of everything that’s been happening in our world lately, it was just kind of the perfect time for us to band together and try and create a movement where people could hopefully use our hashtag, #1planetonepeople, and spread some positivity and create unity in this time of divide.”
But it’s not just about building a website, or growing a social media following, or raising money for those fighting the good fight, systemic change comes from every single person being accountable for their actions and being a positive part of the solution. While the issues we face as a society are huge and can be overwhelming, perspective is everything. There are little things every single person can do to be part of the change right now.
“I think the smartest thing for folks to do is first understand that you can’t change everything,” Lyons Black says. “I think that’s where it gets overwhelming. I think the best thing that people can do is try to be hyper-focused and find something that they’re passionate about. Find that niche that actually is meaningful to them and find a way to contribute through that. I’ve had people reach out to me and be like, ‘I’m a photographer. I would love to just offer my services to take more images of like people of color and I’d love to just like follow you around and take photos.’ That’s one way, just to get that visual representation out there.”
“Other people will call and say, ‘I’m a surf instructor. I have all this experience with kids. What organizations can I work with? Where do you suggest I go?’ And boom, I send them a resource page. You know, things like that. So, if you have a skillset, bring that to the table and offer it up to disadvantaged communities and people of color. It’s really easy. If you just ask and if you come with a specific skillset, I think that’s the easiest way to match you with something that can be a change-maker. The overall issues can be overwhelming and it’s such a big, generational problem that’s going to take years of dismantling to repair, so you just have to look at on a smaller scale and what you can do in your local community. If everyone did that, things would change much more rapidly.”