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Making the California coast public for all

Invisible barriers have kept people of color at bay.

On a warm April morning, Matthew Hernández, wearing a wetsuit, strode across a wide beach near the Santa Monica pier, heading toward the Pacific Ocean. It was only the sixth time 18-year-old Hernández had ever set foot on the sand, despite living less than an hour away, in North Hollywood, California. “No one that I live with really wants to go to the beach,” he said. Until recently, he’d spent most weekends playing videogames.

Hernández and a half dozen other young men had come to the beach for a two-hour lesson with The Surf Bus Foundation, a nonprofit that partners with the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks to get low-income kids to the beach, into the waves, and perhaps into a lifelong relationship with the ocean. 

Matthew Hernández practices pushing up into a surf stance during a lesson with The Surf Bus Foundation. Although he lives an hour away, this was only his sixth time setting foot on the beach.
Jill Replogle

All of the students were African-American or Latino, while most of the Surf Bus volunteer instructors — nearly all members of nearby high school surf teams — were white. The contrast reflects the long history of racial and income disparities that have made the California coast — an 840-mile-long stretch of public open space — a poor reflection of the state’s demographics. 

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Comments about this article

Steve Snyder Subscriber
Jun 13, 2017 03:34 PM
It's probably an issue of class as well as color. Surfing is not cheap and many "poor whites" can't afford it either.
Richard Crow Subscriber
Jun 13, 2017 03:56 PM
What on earth is culturally sensitive lodging?

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