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Thousands of surfers join paddle outs across the globe in memory of George Floyd

Surfers in Santa Monica, Calif., held a paddle out on Friday in memory of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis last week, joining thousands of surfers holding such events across the globe.

Video showed dozens of surfers paddling out and forming the shape of a heart with their surfboards after taking a knee on the sand at Santa Monica beach. It was just one of multiple paddle outs held this week with others taking place up and down the Golden State's coast as well.

And it's just the beginning, with paddle outs taking place around the world as surfers celebrate diversity and stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The peaceful show of unity comes as Floyd's death has sparked global calls for an end to police violence and institutional changes to combat systemic racism. 

Paddle outs are a Hawaiian tradition used to honor surfers who have died with groups paddling out and sitting together on surfboards, but in recent years they've been used to hold memorials for others as well as for protesting purposes. During the memorial, people are known to splash water, leave flowers and cheer.

In Maui, Hawaii, those who joined a paddle out this week noted that the events are not only in honor of Floyd but also in the memory of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, two other black Americans who were shot and killed in recent weeks.

Arbery was shot by white men while on a jog in his Georgia neighborhood, with the men charged in his death saying they believed he was a burglar. Taylor was killed by police who were conducting a search warrant in her home after midnight for a man who did not live in her building and who was already in custody.

There was also a gathering of thousands at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, Calif., on Wednesday to support Black Lives Matter.

Surfers at that paddle out spelled "UNITY" in the sand with their boards, took a knee and held a moment of silence that lasted 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time Floyd is seen being held with a knee to his neck in the video of his arrest. The event was organized by Changing Tides Foundation, Textured Waves, Kind Humans and Selema "Sal" Masekela.

 

 

 

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@salmasekela delivered a powerful speech before joining organizers @texturedwaves, @kindhumans_movement, @changingtidesfoundation, and the city of Encinitas for a paddle out in memory of black lives lost to police brutality. #BlackLivesMatter . : @bradylaw | Aditional footage: @pacificcoastsurf @thecigarettesurfboard @kindhumans_movement

A post shared by World Surf League (@wsl) on

The co-founder of Textured Waves, Danielle Black Lyons, told a local Fox News affiliate that it combines her "culture and her surf community."

"Bringing those two together and marrying them in a beautiful way in a tribute in the form of a paddle out, there's nothing more sacred than that," Lyons told the outlet.

Images show people who painted their surfboards with the words "Black Lives Matter" while others painted their boards to list the names of unarmed African Americans who have died either in police custody or in incidents of racial profiling.

Dozens also joined a paddle out in Galveston, Texas this week, while more events are planned at Seawatch Beach in New Jersey and Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, Mass., as well as at beaches in Mexico, Senegal, Bali and Australia.

At Wednesday's event in Encinitas, Masekela, a San Diego native and popular sports personality, said this has been "the hardest" week to exist in his skin but that the paddle out was a moment of joy in the midst of grief over racism and police brutality.

"For all of the surfers who happen to be black, we've known and experienced challenges in this community that would probably shock you. It's been very hard for people to perceive that people who don't look like them could love the ocean as much as they do," he said. "As I look out right now in this crowd, this is the America we can be."

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