The Ink Well Beach, A Beach To Be Free

The Ink Well Beach, A Beach To Be Free

The Ink Well Beach, A Beach To Be Free

Courtesy of the City of Santa Monica, California and Blackpast.

According to Blackpast, laws were put in place in the State of California between 1893 and 1923 to legislate the right for African American to be able to use any beach in the state.

While the statutes were on the legal books, there remained local pressures and actions along the California coast to limit their access. In 1924, after the forced closure of black-owned and -operated Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach, a 60m stretch of beachfront in Santa Monica became the only place in Southern California where racial minorities were allowed to use without harassment.

In 1927, the Los Angeles branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) argued against those actions in court – and prevailed, further cementing the importance of Ink Well for those minorities who wished to enjoy the coastline.

On February 7th 2008, the City of Santa Monica officially recognized the small sliver of the Southern California coast, locally known at the Ink Well and Nicolás Gabaldón.

The plaque on the landmark at Ink Well reads as follows, “The beach near this site between Bay and Bicknell Streets, known by some as “the Ink Well,” was an important gathering place for African Americans long after racial restriction on public beaches were abandoned in 1927.

African-American groups from Santa Monica, Venice and Los Angeles, as early as the 1920s to the end of the Jim Crow era in the 1950s, preferred to enjoy the sun and surf here because they encountered less racial harassment than at other Southland beaches.

In the 1940s, Nick Gabaldon, a Santa Monica High School student and the first documented black surfer, taught himself how to surf here
Gabaldón, the first documented surfer of African and Mexican American descent in California, was a young local surfer who died tragically surfing at the age of 24.

With racial tensions flaring across America, SCAQ and UCLA masters swimmers will do an coastal memorial swim in honor of George Floyd and other victims of racism on June 14th at 7:30 am at Lifeguard Tower 20, Ink Well Beach. The swimmers will swim from Lifeguard Tower 20 to Lifeguard Tower 26 and back. On dryland, the swimmers will wear a mask and practice social distancing.

For more information about the Sunday swim, visit

Copyright 2008 – 2020 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones