Surf School Owner Harasses Black Surfer at Venice Beach

Photos by  Black Girls Surf

At Venice Pier, a surf break known for its 1-2 foot waves and bygone reputation, a brash slogan is spray painted in yellow on the boardwalk's side: "Locals Only." 

Of the surfers who frequent the pier, it is likely that none can be properly called locals. Property values in Venice average $2 million; the town is almost entirely overrun by peddlers of $30 artisan cocktails and Silicon Valley runaways. 

Nevertheless, aggressive behavior is the norm rather than the exception at Venice Beach and other breaks in Los Angeles. This kind of conduct is especially shameful at a break that is primarily enjoyed by beginners paddling out for the first time.

Surf instructors should be more aware of this than anyone — but that didn't stop the owner of Brazilian Surf Club from snaking waves and putting other surfers in danger last Saturday. 

Danielle Black Lyons is an experienced surfer who serves as President of San Diego Surf Ladies. When the incident occurred, she was longboarding calm waves at the pier along with Khadjou Sambe, an Olympic-hopeful from Senegal training under Black Girls Surf (BGS). An NBC news crew was filming them from the pier while the head coach of BGS live-streamed from the beach. 

 NBC reports that Lima approached the film crew on the pier to ask who they were shooting. When they told him, he laughed and said, "Is that a joke? They don't know anything about surfing."

The footage of what happened next is self-explanatory. The aggressor egregiously violated the most basic rules of etiquette, going so far as to grab Danielle’s leash from behind, yanking on it and causing her to fall dangerously close to the pier. It was a calculated and deliberate action that happened as she was going down the line from the top of the peak where she had taken off. 

Wagner Lima, the aggressor, did not respond to Sea Maven’s request for comment. The surf community has chimed in to suggest that he has exhibited a pattern of conduct.

As for the motivation, the possibilities range from toxic masculinity to “localism” to animus against longboarders. It’s hard to believe that racial and gender bias did not play a role, even sub-consciously. “I can't say for certain this was race related,” Danielle wrote, “but we were the only two black women next to the pier and he zoned in on me. 99% of the time I'm the only black surfer in the lineup and I'm used to getting long looks from people. I get it, I'm not the standard they are used to and they are probably mostly curious. But when someone attacks you, your mind instantly goes down that laundry list and I'd be lying if race wasn't at the top of that list. And likely so would every other person of color.

“I'm not sure if this was a race, gender, localism or longboard thing. We live in turbulent times, and black people and people of color are targets of hate crimes daily. It's an epidemic… If you're not a person of color you wouldn't necessarily understand the position it puts you in, your mind automatically goes there. You question it.”

Rhonda Rokki Harper, who has fifteen years of experience as an International Surfing Association contest judge and is head coach of BGS, wrote: “We’re going to have his permit and license revoked. This is assault. There is NO EXCUSE.”

This blatant assault on dignity and safety will not be tolerated, and the perpetrator has no business teaching the rules of surfing for a living. If you see this happen at your break, call it out and defend fair application of etiquette rules in the lineup.

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Molly Lockwood26 Comments