Before racial segregation was ruled unconstitutional, there was a 200’ stretch of beach where Pico Blvd meets the sea – behind where Shutters and Casa Del Mar stand today known as The INKWELL – the only place on the West side of Los Angeles where people of color could congregate. There was also a Santa Monica High School student by the name of Nick Gabaldon who frequented the beach and eventually walked up to a lifeguard and asked if he could borrow his board to paddle into the surf.
Soon Nick got to be pretty good but wanted to test his mettle against the best up in Malibu. So, one day, when the surf got big, he decided to paddle the 12 miles north and enter the lineup. When he got there, the other surfers being viewed as outcasts themselves, welcomed him in with open arms. In fact, his surfing stood out amongst the crowd and in the 1940’s, Nick became friends with local legends like Ricky Grigg, Matt Kivlin, Mickey Munoz, Bob Simmons and Buzzy Trent. But at the end of each surf session, Nick would have to paddle the 12 miles to exit the beach at The INKWELL.
An epic swell was due to hit the shores of Southern California in early June of 1951 and Nick wanted to be in the lineup. On June 6th, he got there just as the surf picked up. Since Nick was fearless, he took off on the first wave, some say as big as ten feet, shot the pier but hit a piling. They found his body three days later. Nick, at the innocent age of 24 was dead.
This is the story of Nick Gabaldon, the first documented African American Surfer.
Nick’s undying passion is an inspiration to anyone who has ever had the courage to dream. With a mix of photos, video, interviews, performances, art and music his story will be told in this documentary. 12 MILES NORTH represents the literal paddle Nick took to fulfill his surf passion and the distant sight of our dreams we all want to pursue.
Check out the trailer after the jump.