“Whitewash,” Documentary on the Black Experience in Surfing

11:36 PM Richie P. 0 Comments

I would like to send out a special Thank You to @Bertstyle and our friends at Brown Girls Surf for sharing information on the documentary Whitewash. A few weeks ago I posted an article about "12 Miles North: The Nick Gabaldon Story." Whitewash is another documentary expanding on the black experience in surfing.


Whitewash explores the African-American experience and race in surfing. It touches on some pertinent issues about how the history of surfing was detached from it’s indigenous Hawaiian origins and largely regarded as having it’s founding or “discovery” with European settlers. It also focuses on the issues of segregation and racism at beaches in California and of how the belief that “black people can’t swim” was passed down from generation to generation. 

One section of the documentary that really stuck out was the story of an English sea captain’s account of seeing young Ghanian boys “riding waves on wooden boards” on the Gold Coast of Ghana in the 17th century. Ironically, this was the same coast where the slave trade later occurred. As the slave trade expanded, many Africans in costal regions moved inland, which could suggest why “aquatic culture” greatly diminished. In the 1960’s, two American surfers would later be documented “introducing” surfing to Ghanaians in the film “The Endless Summer.” Well “reintroducing.” 

Whitewash is definitely an eye opener for individuals in the black community, who believe that sports like surfing is a “white thing.” Although one’s interest in a sport should not be associated with race it is still a factor. Though as surfer Andrea Kabwasa noted “When you’re riding a wave there is no race.” 

Whitewash is now available to watch for free Hulu,check it out below!

I encourage you to watch this documentary and please share your thoughts. One point that this documentary projected was the fact that so much of our history has been written from one perspective. We should be recording our own stories,history and culture so it is not distorted. The documentary also featured  the founder of  Brooklyn Surfer, a company and surfing community in Brooklyn, New York. Guess what my fellow New Yorkers? You don't need to go on the West Coast to surf.