For Generation­s to Come


a teacher and former volunteer surf instructor who pledged $500 to help bolster his program. When the check arrived, it wasn’t made out for $500, but $1,500. Harris finally felt he could offer the kind of mentorship program his community deserved, and he reached out to Corley to see if he’d endorse him. In 2016, the Black Surfing Associatio­n’s East Coast Chapter was formed in Rockaway.

Harris took a job working as a doorman at a highend, Upper East Side apartment building, opting for the otherwise dreaded 12 a.m. to 9 a.m. graveyard shift just so that he could be at the beach in the Rockaways to begin free surf lessons at 11a.m., which he runs until 1 p.m. on weekdays in the summer and occasional­ly in the winter. He tries to be home and ideally in bed by 2 p.m. so he can catch enough shut-eye to be back in uptown Manhattan for work again by midnight. On Saturdays, when he’s not working, “Mr. Lou”, as his students call him, starts lessons at 9 a.m.

Lately, the surfing community at large has been organizing paddle outs in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, holding memorials for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among the countless others who’ve also lost their lives to systemic racism and police brutality. At the time of this writing, the East Coast Chapter of the Black Surfing Associatio­n has held three such events this spring and summer. On June 5, Harris and co. held a paddle out for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT who was shot and killed by officers who forced their way into her home in the middle of the night in Louisville, Kentucky. The following day, adding a layer of symbolism to the paddle-out ritual, Harris led an 8-block paddle in honor of George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapoli­s, Minnesota after being pinned to the ground and suffocated for over 8 minutes. Some 350 surfers showed up in support.

At the time of this writing, two more paddle outs have taken place since, with surfers carrying flowers, holding signs in support of Black Lives Matter and against systemic racism, and chanting the names of Taylor, Floyd and others. On Saturday, August 22, Harris led surfers from Rockaway’s Beach 73rd Street in a 13-block paddle for Taylor, who was killed on March 13. The paddle culminated in a circle at Beach 83rd Street, where the protesters held hands, raised their fists, and chanted “No justice, no peace”. Back on shore, even more protesters walked the 13 blocks in solidarity.

To Harris, in addition to standing up against systemic racism, the paddle outs are an extension of the Black Surfing Associatio­n’s mission—to build a strong community in the surf, one where Black youth feel seen, supported and protected.

“When you talk to kids here at Rockaway, they think of a surfer as John John Florence—blonde,” says Harris. “When I say, ‘Hey, I’m a surfer,’ they’re shocked. We’re trying to reach every kid, but we’re really trying to reach the kids that wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunit­y. We just want to keep kids busy and active, and spread the message and spread the stoke of surfing, and go into schools and talk to kids about water safety.”

“There’s no racism out there”, says Harris of the ocean. “When you come out of that water, of course you go back to your life. But you lose yourself when you get into the waves.” (Above) Through Harris’ mentorship, countless Black youth from Rockaway and beyond have developed a joyful connection to the surf. Photo by KYLE TERBOSS

(Top) Led by Harris, the New York surf community has made a massive statement these past few months, organizing hundreds of surfers for multiple paddle outs for racial justice. Photo by LUCAS KURZWEIL

The paddle culminated in a circle at Beach 83rd Street, where the protesters held hands, raised their fists, and chanted

“No justice, no peace”.

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