Nathan Fluellen has a vision and for one day a year, it becomes a reality. A Great Day in the Stoke is the largest gathering and celebration of Black surfers in America, and Fluellen is the founder of the annual event. A Great Day in the Stoke takes place on Sept. 16 this year in Huntington Beach, California, and includes a Black surfers competition, surf lessons, vendors, a dance party featuring a live DJ and awards honoring Black surfing pioneers.
Before the day of fun, Fluellen stopped by rolling out to discuss the history of Black surfers.
What are some surprising facts about Black surfers?
There are records that this German guy saw Africans surfing off the coast of Ghana hundreds of years ago. There’s a documentary that documents that, Wade in the Water produced by David Mesfin and Bem (Yemesgen) who is on the team, so you guys can check that out.
In California, Nick Gabaldón was the first documented Black and Hispanic surfer in the late 40s or early 50s. So there’s an organization called Black Surfers Collective, they have Nick Gabaldón Day, the first week of June every year to preserve his legacy.
Another fact is that we exist. There are different affinity groups out there that are supportive that we support. You have Color The Water, Textured Waves, Black Surf Club Santa Cruz, Paddle for Peace, Sofly Surf School, Brick is doing ebony beach clubs. There are a lot of Black surf groups on a daily basis week-in-week-out that are supporting to get Black people in the water. You have Intrsxtn with this young lady named Jessa (Williams), so there’s a huge surf community that exists on the West Coast. In Florida, Gigi Lucas has SurfearNEGRA, it’s also in Brazil.
Surfing is for everyone. I would say that’s a fact. As long as you have a board and a wetsuit or a desire to get salty, you can be a surfer.
You’ve traveled so much with the show “World Wide Nate.” Why is travel so important to you?
That epiphany came in Barcelona. That was one of my first international trips. I found myself in Barcelona, partying, and then I was in a room with people from all over the world. They were Americans, people from Russia and France just living abroad. That was an eye-opening experience of being in that room and seeing the possibilities of interactions with people. I’m a people person, I love people, and I have a huge family. I have about 30 cousins that live in L.A., even though my family’s originally from Mississippi and Alabama, and it’s a ton of us in Chicago and everywhere else in the world. I was just fascinated with just the possibilities of leaving the United States and, diving into these melting pots and meeting all these people I can learn from. I’m a sponge, so that was what shaped me as a global citizen. I tell people I live in the world, but I vacation in L.A.