A Great Day at the Stoke had surfing competitions, yoga sessions and surf lessons (Photo by Onatan Galendez)

Last month, Black surfers gathered to celebrate their existence at A Great Day at The Stoke in Huntington Beach. Touted as the biggest gathering of Black surfers, A Great Day at The Stoke included a surf competition, free Yoga sessions, and free surf lessons.

Event founder and travel influencer Nathan Fluellen was inspired by the WSL U.S. Open and major African American events like A Great Day in Harlem and A Great Day in Hip Hop. Fluellen, an alum of Tennessee State University, imagined a surfing event that had the feel of an HBCU Homecoming weekend.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Black surfers would meet to do paddle-outs to honor the lives of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. That also inspired Fluellen to create an event that brought together a large group of Black surfers.

Travel personality Nathan Fluellen created A Great Day at the Stoke (Photo by Earl Gibson)

“It will be the largest gathering of Black surfers in history where we can come together and just meet each other,” Fluellen said. “Over the years, through social media, we know each other, but we’ve become friends through a screen.”

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Being a board member for the surfing education non-profit Color The Water, Fluellen knew the impact of providing free surf lessons to African Americans. He also wanted to offer yoga because the movements mimic that of surfing and it promotes mental health awareness.

“I wanted to make events within event, sort of appeal to a mass audience,” Fluellen said. “I wanted to push the envelope and give us permission to know that we have access to these spaces.”

Hundreds of Black surfers attended A Great Day at the Stoke (Photo by Earl Gibson)

The competition had categories for men, women, and youth. Fluellen’s company, Kavata Swimwear, was one of the main sponsors. A percentage of each sale at Kavata goes to bring awareness to Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.

During the event, Fluellen honored Black Surf Association founder Tony Corley, first Black female pro surfer Sharon Schaffer, and @Black.Surfers founder Kayiita Johnson. In his acceptance speech, Corley thanked Black surfers past and present for their contributions.

Black female surfers pose with their surfboards (Photo by Earl Gibson)

“This was my original vision, coming together as a family of surfers, Black surfers and all the richness that entails,” he said. “The whole world can see us.”

Fluellen calls Schaffer a “wave blazer” for her career as a surfer. She noted she felt honored and grateful to be at A Great Day at The Stoke.

“We’ve come so far as a collective, we have our feet firmly planted in the sand, just taking our rightful place next to the water’s edge of mother ocean who gives us so much love and so much joy,” Schaffer said.

Actor Trevor Jackson returns to the beach from surfing (Photo by Earl Gibson)

Fluellen also awarded Johnson with the Wave Blazer award for his work on aggregating Black surfers and his efforts to change policies that prevent children of color from learning about swimming and water safety.

“Black people surfing has been something since any of us were even thinking about history, I mean seventeen hundreds, sixteen hundreds in Africa,” Johnson said. “This is something that will happen before us, this is something that will continue after us.”