Los Angeles surf parties offer collective healing

by Danielle F. Winter

Saltwater can heal a wound in numerous ways. Being in and around it and feeling its presence flushing onto you can cleanse you from within. Brick knows the transformative appeal of the ocean. It’s what led him and his good friend, Gage Crismond, to found the surf and art collective Ebony Beach Club—formerly known as Black Sand, the cooperative host’s monthly gatherings throughout the summer at Dockweiler Beach — also known as the Beach Bounce — where Brick and his friends DJ and local surf organizations, including Color the Water and Sofly Surf School, offer free surf lessons. The Beach Bounce has taken on a life of its own in just a few months. People come out in droves; they tell their friends to do the same. Ebony Beach Club has shown that a surf party can be a vehicle for something deeper: collective healing. In this essay, said to Julissa James Brick shows why partying is a therapeutic practice. Whether you need healing by witnessing or experiencing pain – in the world, in yourself – celebration provides a blank slate.

Los Angeles surf parties offer collective healing

Celebration brings many things to an end. If you have a moment to celebrate, it closes the last door and the next. It’s such a refreshment. To go out and have a good time after three days of stress – or even when we experience the death of a family member who wanted to be celebrated – releases a kind of serotonin. It brings the best parts to the top and the foreground. Music, the weather, trying something new. Celebration is closing off everything.

The Ebony Beach Club hosts the “Beach Bounce” on the second Sunday of the month all summer. The gathering is like “a celebration, with the ability to heal,” Brick says.

(Gage Crismond and Brennen Daniels)

Silas White originally founded ebony Beach Club in 1957. At the time, other Santa Monica beach clubs were offered, but it was clear that black people were not allowed. His whole idea was: there was no place for black people to have free time. Leisure has always been an instrument of white supremacy. He opened it at 1811 Ocean Ave., put up a big sign, and 2000 members signed up. And then, before the official opening, the City of Santa Monica claimed prime domain on the space.

My mom recently visited my grandfather, who is 90, maybe 89, and used to be a LA city planner. His name is Donald Dove. She told him what I do, and he said, “Oh, I signed up for Ebony Beach Club in 1957. It never opened.” My grandfather, who can’t swim, had had the chance to learn, and he is now.

Ultimately, that was all about: reinventing beach culture as a whole—especially the forward-looking American beach culture and Southern California beach culture have always excluded us. What we do today is the exact rebirth of [the original Ebony Beach Club]† As we expand and move on, I want it to be a place for relaxation, a healing experience. It’s a spiritual experience, especially when you start to find a tribe in it. At the last Beach Bounce, there were 250 to 300 people – twice the size of the previous one. I have a feeling it will be 500 next time.

Reinventing beach culture as a whole that’s what Ebony Beach Club is all about.

(Gage Crismond and Brennen Daniels)

Everyone has the same vibe, and everyone is just so open. When I turn on the back of my El Camino, I go straight for positivity. I jump between 90’s R&B, new jack swing, and that sort of thing. Then I go to some reggae, Senegalese, funky soul vibes, James Brown, Ja Rule, and Ashanti. That was so cool: since everyone comes together for the same reason, everyone is so ready to interact and talk to each other.

Therefore, there is so much room for healing. People share the wetsuits, share the board, so much is exchanged. We stand in the sun, and we touch the water. It’s like a party with the opportunity to heal or find something new. People challenge themselves, but then they can also just come to a party [on the beach] and be accepted, hugged, and embraced by others like them. I call it like putting medicine in the candy.

“This whole thing that we were trying to solve – not to be allowed – is the answer to that: why don’t we just find and create space with each other?” says Brick.

(Gage Crismond and Brennen Daniels)

The actual answer to this whole thing that we were trying to solve – of not being allowed – is, why don’t we find and create space with each other? They will always have a place where they want; I can surf here. I can come here and try to learn. Even if I don’t go out 29 days a month, there is a day when I can stop. It creates a solution for us. In the future, we want to do different water experiences, a fishing experience as Silas planned, and have a hunting party. Hopefully, we will make several trips abroad or group trips to a resort one day. Keep building it into a fully immersive, experiential club with a core message we all believe in.

I have done many things and learned a lot along the way. I feel that what is happening now is a twist of all my skills and experiences coming together in a place that is useful, healing, and important,t. It makes me emotional, like I’m almost in tears watching the scene because I know thas’s-thing about my deathbed this done day. To see how other people get on with that, I always say it’s a channel or a catalyst for whatever you are. Its energy transfers into whatever and whoever you are. It empowers you because it contains many elements; people can find it differently. It’s not just by surfing, but it’s about that thing. With that thing, that puts the battery in your back. It’s about connecting with nature and people.

Brick, center, co-founded the Ebony Beach Club with his good friend, Gage Crismond. “I feel like what’s happening now is the most unexpected twist of all my skills and experiences coming together in a place that’s helpful, healing, and important,” Brick says.

(Gage Crismond and Brennen Daniels)

When surfing, I don’t have time to think about things. When you dive under the waves, and a bigger one comes up, and you paddle out and then see another guy, and you try not to get in his way but still get the wave…you think of nothing else the whole time. Even when I sit there in silence – I wait, have patience, and look to the horizon to see if something comes in. So it’s hard to say, “Oh, s— did I send that PDF file?” It’s even hard to think about that, and there’s nothing I can do about it; even if I come to a certain realization, I’m just allowed to be present and completely exempt from the world.

I do what I see other people doing with this party – [surfing, finding community] – is what opened the channel to all these changes in my life and this sense of I’m finding my true purpose. It is the convergence of all worlds in the best possible way. It is bliss when there are people. Unlike other parties I’ve thrown, I got so many personal blows afterward. Like, “That was like the church today.”

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