The pictures that I took during the Black Lives Matter Paddle-Outs have garnered a lot of attention and I’m so appreciative of all the love they’ve received and continue to receive.
When I was first told about the protests, I wasn’t sure what to expect. See, in Hawaii, a paddle-out is used traditionally as a sort of memorial service. Friends, family, and community members will paddle away from the shore to form a circle in the water, holding hands and gathering to celebrate the life and legacy of those who have passed away. I had never before seen it used as part of a movement.
But the events of May 25th sparked a fire across the country. The recent news of George Floyd’s murder amped up the already growing tensions over police brutality across the nation. Knowing the history of the paddle-outs and then hearing about how it was going to be used as a form of peaceful protest piqued my interest. The surf community has always seemed to be relatively hands-off. I find it intriguing to see such little diversity in the lineups I’m shooting despite the fact that surfing is a sport that was created by people of color. Not only was I moved to take action against the most recent displays of violence, but I also wanted to participate in something that would bring awareness to racial injustices in my own community. By crazy chance, I’d torn the labrum in my shoulder the day before while surfing and wasn’t able to paddle out comfortably. The best way I knew to participate as an artist was to capture the moment for other people to cherish, which I did with my drone. After seeing the positive response from the first paddle out on a Friday evening, I was invited by the organizers to photograph the following two on Saturday and Sunday.
It was amazing to see how many people showed up over the course of the weekend in such a beautiful display of solidarity. Getting footage from the drone really made it that much more impactful as you see the number of people who participated, sitting hand in hand, paying tribute to the lives lost and holding space for the voices that still need to be heard.
While documentation of events like this is needed to spread a message, I wanted to also donate a portion of proceeds from my prints directly to the #BlackLivesMatter movement to distribute and use as they see fit - hopefully helping to put an end to systemic racism and inspire change. Through researching the horrific history of racial injustice worldwide and especially in the U.S., one of the issues that stuck out to me most was voter suppression. This led me to donate to Black Voters Matter.
In addition to capturing the paddle-outs, I also participated in a march from Ala Moana Beach Park to the Capital. Looking back I am still moved that so many people came together in solidarity to push for social equality and to be a part of the largest social justice movement in the U.S. since the 60s.