The Coast News Group
Danielle Black Lyons
Danielle Black Lyons was recently recognized as Rep. Mike Levin's Constituent of the Month for June. Photo by Jianca Lazarus
Community News Oceanside Region

Oceanside surfer, activist named Constituent of the Month

OCEANSIDE — An Oceanside resident and activist for women of color in the surfing community has been chosen as the “Constituent of the Month” for the 49th district.

Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) named Danielle Black Lyons the top constituent for June.

Recently, Lyons helped organize a recent paddle-out memorial in Encinitas to honor the memory of George Floyd, who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis in late May, and other victims of police brutality and systemic racial injustice.

In the surfing community, a paddle-out is usually held when someone dies. A group of surfers paddle out into the waters and circle around whoever the next of kin is or whoever is leading the paddle-out, where they share a few words.

People often bring flowers and throw them in the water, Lyons explained, or they may even bring the ashes of the person who died to be spread out to sea.

“In surf culture, it’s one of the most sacred ways to honor lives lost,” Lyons said.

Paddle Out
Thousands of people paddled out into the water on June 3 in Encinitas to honor the life of George Floyd and others who have been killed by police. Photo by Brady Lawrence

Lyons, together with Becky Mendoza of the Changing Tides Foundation, Justin Wilkenseld and Jordan Miller of Kindhumans and 13-year X Games commentator Sal Masekela, made the paddle-out a reality on June 3 through coordination with the local lifeguards and police.

Lyons said the paddle-out brought between 4,000 and 5,000 people into the water, including surfers and open water swimmers alike. Prior to hitting the water, Lyons and some of the other organizers spoke on the beach to the group.

Lyons said she spoke about the need for people to take personal responsibility to make changes happen at a local level.

“I think change begins within yourself, your home and your local community first, then spreads out from there,” Lyons said.

Prior to entering the water, they held an eight-minute moment of silence while sharing George Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe.”

Once in the water, the group began calling out chants.

“It was a really powerful moment,” Lyons said.

Paddle-outs also usually have a moment when everyone begins splashing, leading to a “climactic, joyous moment at the end where all of the energy of the group is released,” Lyons said. The June 3 paddle-out was no exception.

For Lyons, it was particularly powerful to see so many people in the water gathered in solidarity.

“People in the black community, we’re all pretty traumatized by what we witnessed when George Floyd was basically lynched,” Lyons said.

Lyons added that she felt supported in a way she had never felt in her community of North County, where she has lived for six years.

The paddle-out generated “lots of love” and gave people hope, according to Lyons.

“It was very healing to see the community rally together,” she said. “I don’t think anybody walked away from that beach feeling worse.”

Levin highlighted Lyons’ efforts in his entry into the congressional record.

“This powerful traditional surfing demonstration paid tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement and gave hope to our community as it struggles to address these critically important issues,” Levin said.

Organizing a paddle-out isn’t the only thing Lyons has done for her community. She is a co-founder of Textured Waves, an online platform created to promote the culture and sport of surfing for women of color.

African Americans are underrepresented in the surfing community, Lyons said, and so she formed the collective with three surf friends to help change that narrative.

“There are not a lot of people of color in the water, and a large part of that is due to systemic racism,” Lyons said. “Representation is so important, we want to show future generations that we are out there and we want to make sure that story is being told from our lens.”

Levin also highlighted Lyons’ work with Textured Waves in his entry as well.

“I applaud Danielle’s spirit and activism, and look forward to seeing what else she will do to make a positive impact on our community, the surfing industry, and this important movement going forward,” Levin said.

Levin originally launched his Constituent of the Month program to recognize people who “have gone above and beyond to make our region and our country a strong place for everyone to live and thrive.”

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