More than 250 surfers gathered in the sea at New York’s Rockaway Beach yesterday to host a floating memorial service for Breonna Taylor, the black EMT who was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13.
Sitting on their boards in a circle, the surfers threw flowers in the sea and splashed water towards the sky, while chanting slogans against police brutality and racism.
A paddle-out is a traditional Hawaiian tribute to the life and legacy of loved ones who have died, but these ceremonies are also used as a form of protest.
More than 250 surfers gathered in the sea at New York’s Rockaway Beach to host a floating memorial service for Breonna Taylor, the black EMT who was killed by police on March 13
The paddle-outs at Rockaway Beach have organized in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests that have been held across the United States throughout the summer
The surfers entered the water at 73rd street and paddled 13 blocks with flowers in their teeth and on their boards to commemorate the date that Taylor was killed.
As they arrived at 86th street they were met by a crowd who had gathered on the beach with signs protesting racial inequality and police brutality.
The event was organized by Lou Harris, 48, a surfer who founded the East Coast chapter of the Black Surfing Association four years ago in Rockaway, Queens.
He told DailyMail.com the paddle-outs showed that surfers could support the Black Lives Matter protests and keep the memory of those who died alive without resorting to violence.
He said: ‘All you see on the media now is protests with people getting arrested, looting, burning, fighting, tear gas. I want people to see that surfers – especially us here in Rockaway – are peaceful.
The event was organized by Lou Harris, 48, a surfer who founded the East Coast chapter of the Black Surfing Association four years ago to introduce the sport to more kids in Rockaway
The paddle-outs at Rockaway Beach are part tributes to those who have died and part protest against police brutality and racial injustice
‘We can protest in peace and still get our point across. You don’t have to yell, you don’t have to burn buildings, you don’t have to throw Molotov cocktails.’
August 22 was the fourth paddle-out the Black Surfers Association has hosted this summer in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protest, with a fifth planned for September.
Previous paddle-outs have involved surfers paddling eight blocks along the shoreline to represent the time George Floyd had his neck pinned to the ground and singing Happy Birthday to Taylor on the day she would have turned 27.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old medical worker, was shot eight times after cops burst into her home just before 1am on March 13 while operating on a no-knock search warrant for a drug investigation.
Taylor was asleep at the time at the residence she shared with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker. The warrant to search her home was in connection with a suspect who did not live there and no drugs were found.
Drone footage above Rockaway Beach captured the surfers paying tribute to Breonna Taylor in traditional paddle-out
As the surfers arrived at the shoreline of 86th street they were met by a crowd who had gathered on the beach with signs protesting racial inequality and police brutality
Saturday’s event was the fourth paddle-out the Black Surfers Association has hosted this summer in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protest, with a fifth planned for September
Attention on the death of Taylor heightened after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on Memorial Day earlier this year.
The black 46-year-old father of five died during an arrest after a white police officer pressed his knee against the man’s neck for close to nine minutes. Former cop Derek Chauvin lost his job after the slaying and has been charged with Floyd’s murder.
In the past, paddle-outs have taken a stand against offshore drilling, oil spills, water pollution and construction, and Harris told DailyMail.com that the ceremonies at Rockaway are part tributes and part protests.
Along with chants of the name of the person who died, during the paddle-outs at Rockaway you’ll hear shouts of ‘Black Lives Matter’, ‘No Justice, No Peace’, and ‘Whose waves? Our waves!’
Harris explained that paddling 13 blocks is strenuous, but he wanted people to feel sore when they woke up today as a reminder to keep Taylor in their thoughts.
The East Coast chapter of the Black Surfing Association offers free surf lessons to local kids
The paddle-outs are designed to show that in the surfing community protests are peaceful
‘Breonna didn’t get the chance to wake up, he said. ‘She was a woman sleeping in her apartment, minding her own business and the cops kicked the door down. She got killed for nothing.
‘I don’t want it to get swept under the rug, because these cops still haven’t been brought to justice.’
Harris, who grew up in Long Island, started the East Coast chapter of the Black Surfing Association in 2016 after hearing about the case of a fire in nearby Coney Island in which a responding police offer was killed.
Marcell Dockery, the teen who confessed to starting the fire said he did so because he was bored. ‘That blew my mind,’ said Harris. ‘So I reached out to Tony Corley, who founded the West Coast chapter and asked to start an east Coast chapter.’
He added: ‘When I first moved here 15 years ago a couple of black kids saw me on the corner with my surfboard and they said to me: “Black people don’t surf.”‘
Lou said that this response upset him but it made him realize there was a lack of opportunity in Rockaway, so he started free surf lessons designed to keep kids busy and to introduce them to the sport.
A paddle-out is a traditional Hawaiian tribute to the life of loved ones who have died. Surfers form a circle holding hands and throw flowers into the center, chant and splash water. Pictured is the memorial for skateboarder and surfer Jay Adams in Venice Beach, California, in 2014
Two surfers attend the memorial for surfer John Kissel in Huntington Beach, California, in 2009. During paddle-outs surfers often carry flowers in their teeth or on their boards, which they then throw into the water in memory of the a loved one
He explained that surf lessons typically cost anywhere from $100 to $125 an hour, which is an expense most families in Rockaway simply cannot afford.
Lou added: ‘If you give these kids the right boards, the right wetsuits and the right opportunities they can excel.’
Yesterday’s paddle-out was meant to be the last one of the summer, but Lou said he has now planned another for September and that the organization will keep supporting the Black Lives Matter movement until they start to see real change.
He said: ‘The only way we will see change when arrests start being made and these police officers start being held accountable. These protests are not going to stop until then.’