A few months ago, we got the chance to team up with our friends over at Color The Water, a non-profit on a mission to fight racism with joy, by building community in the ocean and offering free surf lessons for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). The outdoor industry as we know is predominately white, so we are excited to promote an organization on a mission to bring more BIPOC into outdoor spaces. From the ocean to #vanlife, check out our interview with Lizelle Jackson, founder of Color The Water:
Tell us about the mission of Color The Water
We are a community for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) to reclaim space in the ocean through joyful, defiant, anti-racist surf lessons, celebrations, education and media.
How did Color The Water get its start?
Color the Water began as a way to fight racism after the murder of George Floyd. We wanted to fight racism with joy, so we started to offer free surf lessons and media for BIPOC in the LA area. Now we are a diverse, inclusive, anti-racist safe space for hundreds of BIPOC surfers.
What has been the most impactful part of creating this organization?
The community! I don’t think we could have ever imagined how quickly this community would grow. Surfing is a solitary sport so we just assumed folks would come to us for lessons and then continue on their way. Instead we have seen the surfers come back day after day, week after week. People are looking to surf in a safe space where they can show up as their authentic selves and not feel forced to shapeshift to fit the cultural norm of how surfers are “supposed” to look or behave. Color the Water allows for the community to just be.
Where does Color The Water currently operate and what are your plans to continue spreading the word and the impact of the community it has created?
We are currently operating out of Marina Del Rey, California. We chose this location for a clubhouse as it allows the members of our community to experience the coastal life that many BIPOC have systematically been excluded from in California. Fortunately, we don’t have to spend much time recruiting people to come surf with us! Almost every person that shows up to surf has a similar story…surfing has always been something they have wanted to try, yet they never felt it was an activity they could do because there was never anyone that looked like them in the water. Our hope is that the media representation we are helping to create will spread the word on its own. If you see it, you can be it.
How did you like your Moterra vans on the CTW surf trip?
What to say?! The vans were amazing and we loved how well curated they were. From the copper Moscow Mule mugs to the shower at the back of the van (post surf perfection!), we couldn’t have asked for anything more. It was such a treat for us to fall asleep to the sounds of the waves and roll out of bed in the morning to check the surf. We loved the freedom of being able to drive to different breaks, find the one we liked the best and pop the top to sleep. We all had our little routines and little hacks for making the vans feel like our own. By the end of the trip the vans felt like home and we are all trying to figure out how we could buy one!
The reason we wanted to do this trip was to connect with the BIPOC surfing affinity groups that exist along the coast of california from San Francisco to LA. There is strength in numbers and we wanted to create a video that shows the amazing work that all these organizations are doing as a show of solidarity. We were able to meet with representatives from groups like @black.surfers, @blacksurfclubsc, @citysurfproject and @texturedwaves to discuss the work we are doing and why it is necessary. Having the Moterra vans also enabled us to take 4 members of the community on the trip with us! This was an incredible experience because it gave them the opportunity to surf some of the most amazing beaches California has to offer. More importantly though, we were able to show that the BIPOC community appreciates and participates in #vanlife as well! As with the outdoor industry, there is a severe lack of representation in this area which is why there is currently a #diversifyvanlife movement with accounts like @diversify.vanlife leading the charge
What opportunities are there for getting involved? As a participant and/or as a volunteer.
Look us up on Instagram @color_the_water! We have a link to register for lessons as well as a link for those that are interested in volunteering. Even if you are not a surf instructor and are looking to get involved in some way, please reach out. As we are a budding non-profit we are always looking for those willing to donate their time and expertise from a variety of different professions.
How can people support Color The Water?
We currently have a GoFundme and just recently launched a Patreon that we are using to support the organization. The Patreon is great because it allows you to support us on a monthly basis and gives you access to exclusive videos, our blog and discounts on gear and merchandise. You can find the links to both of those on our Instagram page @color_the_water. More importantly though, we are in the finals for the LA2050 grant with public voting that will decide the winner. This grant alone would help keep us funded for a whole year if we win! If you want to support our mission please spread the word and vote during the week of June 21st-28th here.
Anything else you want to add (anything we are not asking that you’d like to share about?)
Next time you’re out on a hike, bike ride, or in the ocean, take a look around you. Notice who is there and who isn’t. It is a privilege to occupy spaces where everyone looks like you and it’s most likely something you may have never noticed. Whiteness is centered in almost every “positive” or “neutral” aspect of our society and the outdoors is no different. Help support and uplift the outdoor affinity groups that are out there creating these safe spaces for BIPOC so that one day when we look around what we see will be more representative of the actual world we live in.