.Paddling for Liberation

Santa Cruz Black organizes its third annual paddle-out ahead of Juneteenth

About 150 people hit the waves Saturday at Cowell’s Beach in the third annual Liberation Paddle Out celebration of Juneteenth.

With the aid of around two dozen skilled surfers and other supporters, the crowd fitted themselves with wetsuits and took a brief surf lesson in the sand. They then scrambled into the Pacific for an afternoon of surfing under sunny skies with one-to-two foot waves. 

Laura Owen, director at Santa Cruz Credit Union, said it was her first time to go surfing.

“It’s very empowering,” she said. I’m always scared to go into the water, but today I’m very excited to be a part of this and to see so many people out doing activities like this,” she said. Owen added that she was proud to be a part of the sponsorship team from Santa Cruz Credit Union.

The event was hosted by Black Surf Santa Cruz whose single goal is to to promote physical and spiritual wellness through surf in the Santa Cruz community. 

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Brittany Williams and her daughter, Powell, haul a surfboard out to sea at Cowell’s Beach Sunday during the third annual Liberation Paddle Out in celebration of Juneteenth. PHOTO: Tarmo Hannula

“We are driven by the need and urgency for inclusivity, diversity, and equality,” a statement reads on their website. 

​Juneteenth, declared a federal holiday in the United States by President Joe Biden in 2022, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

Rachel Kippen, board member of Black Surf Santa Cruz, said she was delighted with the turnout.

“People were carrying flowers out into the surf as it got under way,” she said. “It’s a great celebration.”


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Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.
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