Tragedy Brings Unity to the Black Surfing Community

By Rhonda Baxter, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: August 27, 2009

SANTA MONICA, Ca. (BASN) — When the news surfaced of the tragic death of African American surfer Monte Valentin immediately the black surf community reacted. It was within hours a response from the SoCal Chapter of the Black Surfing Association was posted on the online.

Rick Blocker and Andrea Kabwasa, members of the BSA, quickly began the planning of a memorial paddle out in honor of a fellow surfer, a Hawaiian tradition of honoring the departed.

A BSA member, David Keetin, even drove to Luana Valentin’s house, Monte’s mother, and a neighbor’s house to personally leave condolences and memorial information for the family on a note.

Monte Valentin , a 50-year old, African American surfer, tragically lost his life after a set of massive waves slammed his body into the rocks at the Wedge in Newport Beach. His memorial paddle out was held this past Sunday at the Inkwell Beach in Santa Monica, a once segregated African American only stretch of beach.

The invited guest list ranged from family and friends to surf journalist and surf industry entrepreneurs each representing black surfers from different parts of the country. It was an image never captured before. As people began to pass by the Inkwell Beach, they would stop to ask about the event. Some passersby would join, some would simply watch from the beach.

The BSA held its first memorial paddle out with all of the grandeur of the traditional Hawaiian with an added touch of Mother Africa send off. The BSA, president, Dedon Kamathi, briefly spoke on the Hawaiian tradition and the African role in the history of surfing.

The traditional African ritual of libation was performed; traditionally water was used for cooling and healing and creating or reconciling relationships. This was for Mother Ocean as well.

Other guest participating in the ceremony include, the Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay, Podunk Surfboards, Surf Noir’s Suyen Mosley, Blacksurfing.com, 9 Fish Surfboards, Remy Smith of the Los Angeles Lifeguard Association, Cpt. Greg Rachal of the Los Angeles Fire Department, legendary surfer, Sharon Schaffer, Inkwell Surf & Sk8 Club and other members of the surf community. Many of the surfers in attendance met one another for the first time, all understanding the power of this memorial.

After the ceremony, black and white surfers grabbed their boards and headed towards Mother Ocean. The traditional prayer circle was formed; hand in hand they said a prayer for Monte Valentin and his family. A Lifeguard boat shot its water geyser in honor, as other surfers who were surfing nearby joined to watch the event.

Natasha Valentin, sister of Monte said,” I didn’t understand why he went out on that day, but after this (ceremony) I am at peace with it.”

“This is the first time we (the black surf community) all worked together,” said Mimi Lacy, Program Director of Inkwell Surf, “it was really moving. I cried.”

This is exactly what I had envisioned when I asked for the plaque at Inkwell Beach. We (black surf community) needed place where we can celebrate life with people that understand who we are and what our lifestyle is really all about.

The love of mother Earth, the spirit of our ancestors and loving our fellow man can all be felt on this sand. I was so honored to be a part of it.

A note posted on the Black Surfing Association’s Facebook page read:

“Thank you for the glorious tribute in my son, Monte’s, honor. I thought my heart was going to explode with pride and gratitude for the wonderful, loving ceremony that you all put together on his behalf. You are a wonderful organization! May your future be very bright and may God bless you all a lot! Love, Luana Valentin.”