Two adolescents are taking on mature subject matters of racial injustice and police brutality, while bringing the community down to the water with their surfboards.
Sophia Ruckriegel, 14, and her 12-year-old brother, Kilian Ruckriegel, who have been surfing half their lives, have organized a paddle out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as solidarity and inclusion in surf, for Tuesday, August 25, at Napeague Lane Beach.
In addition to a handful of protests on the East End following the death of George Floyd, a paddle out was held at Ditch Plains in Montauk June 3 as part of a worldwide protest in the water. About 150 attended, but the Ruckriegels only found out about it after the fact. The siblings, who, with their parents, split their time between Crown Heights in Brooklyn and Springs, did attend a paddle out against police brutality in Rockaway, organized by the East Coast chapter of the Black Surfing Association, later that month.
The experience, as well as some recent reading, left an indelible mark on the young surfers and they hoped to have the experience in their own community on the South Fork. “Instead of waiting for one to be organized, we decided to organize it ourselves,” Sophia said by phone on Friday.
The brother and sister duo have read “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, which is meant to inspire hope for an antiracist future, and were moved to do something. “I learned so much from that book — how many people can be racist and not even realize it,” Kilian said.
They want their paddle out to be inclusive of all races and genders. Sophia said she knows surfing is a predominantly white, male sport. “We want people to be from different backgrounds,” she said. Sophia and Kilian’s mother is African American and her father is German.
The children reached out to community organizations like Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island and the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center.
The duo have been using social media to spread the word with hashtags like #inclusioninsurf and #colorthewater.
“We hope to have a lot of people there,” Sophia said.
The event will begin at 6 p.m. with some speakers, before surfers take to their boards to go out into the water, where they will form a circle and say some chants, before returning to the beach. Those in attendance are being asked to wear a mask and practice social distancing guidelines due to COVID-19.
Kilian said he hopes the event will be a good time, while also bringing the community together. “First of all it would be really fun because surfing is fun. And, I think they should get involved because this is a movement not a moment. And I think it’s important for people to realize that.”