We had the great privilege of meeting up with Nathan Fluellen and showing him around North County San Diego for some coffee and waves. Nate is a content creator, TV show host, world traveler, and surfer, but most importantly he's an amazing human who's striving to be an advocate for growing the surf community and representation of black surfers. We hope you enjoy this conversation.
*This interview has been transcribed from it's original audio format.
Q. For our audience who might not know you, would you mind just giving a brief intro about who you are?
Nate - I'm Nathan Fluellen, also known as World Wide Nate. I am the host of the three travel TV shows. I primarily film in Africa, making content about the diaspora. I’m also the founder of A Great Day In The Stoke, which is the largest gathering of black surfers in history.
My TV show brought me into the sport of surfing with the first show. I filmed the video with the Zulu boys and girls surfers in Durban, South Africa, and that's what got me into surfing. I started taking lessons in Venice Beach, and since then I fell in love with surfing. And because of my World Wide Nate brand I've surfed all around the world.
Q. What was that process of learning to surf as an adult?
Nate - It was like connecting with a lifelong desire of mine to surf because growing up, I swam every day. I grew up swimming every summer with my friends. We had a swimming pool in the subdivision we lived in. I always wanted to surf, but I didn't see anybody that looked like me surfing. I didn’t feel like it was a sport that I could get into because of the lack of representation. So it was just a dream deferred. And then when it came to filming the show and surfing in Durban, that was like the catalyst. It was just kind of like reliving my childhood dream as an adult. As much as it was difficult with the many falls and wipeouts that I took, you know, I enjoyed every moment of it because I was able to do something I desired and had put aside for about 30 years.
Q. How does the ocean and surfing affect your mood and mindset for the rest of the day?
Nate - It sets me up to have a great day. I typically surf seven days out of the week. Five of those days, I'll see a dolphin. I'll just be connecting with mother ocean. No devices. I feel like I'm closer to God when I'm in the ocean. All the stress and things I'm worried about just kind of washes away, you know. Call it saltwater therapy.
Q. In all your travels, do you have a favorite place that you've surfed?
Nate - My favorite place I would say is where the water is warm and I don’t have to wear a wetsuit. So that's been Bali and the Maldives. Those are my top places that I've surfed that were pretty fun. Bali was super challenging though because I'm regular and that's the land of lefts. I didn’t get the memo before I arrived. I showed up to the break and I’m like “Oh my, I got to work on my backside.” So yeah, that was challenging, but fun as well.
Q. You mentioned surfing with the Zulu boys and girls in Africa, what’s the surf culture like there?
Nate - It was super inspiring because the kids have so much energy. It reminded me of when I was a kid hanging out with my friends, but playing basketball. They had this energy. They would talk smack to each other in Zulu or Xhosa, which is another language. South Africa has 11 official languages, but Zulu and Xhosa are the biggest tribes, which is the language that they speak in the movie Black Panther. They just had this surfer vibe, but it was with this African flavor. It was cool to see their excitement and energy about surfing the same way, you know, I could just relive those moments as a kid just hanging out with my friends.
I am really inspired to continue to get better at surfing so I can come back and surf with them. I haven't come back yet and surfed with them since I filmed. I went back and donated some wetsuits, but I didn't get a chance to surf with them. But I want to, now that my skill set is better off, get in the water with them and keep up.
Q. Can you share about A Great Day In The Stroke and what you're working on with that?
Nate - A Great Day In The Stroke, I'm excited about it because it's my opportunity to prevent other black kids from having their surf dreams deferred. Also, it’s about having representation so they can see themselves surfing and catching waves. We encourage more black surfers and use surfing as a motivational tool to get more black people to learn how to swim. Statistically, 64% of black people don't know how to swim, so that leads to higher drowning rates. So the event is addressing multiple issues. It’s multifaceted.
Another component is celebrating our OG surf elders who’ve been surfing for years. We highlight them and honor them. You have to know where you came from, to know where you're going. We celebrate the people who have been doing it way before we started, but we are able to amplify and get the message out a lot quicker and broader because of technology. Additionally, all the surf organizations that are weekly day in, day out, providing free surf lessons, surf opportunities, or just cultivating the culture – everybody comes together in like a homecoming atmosphere. We celebrate and acknowledge everyone.
Then we have the surf competition where people can compete and have an opportunity to compete in a healthy environment. So we want to be able to use that surf competition to inspire people to come up through the community and the ranks and then go off and compete on the world circuit, World Surf League, or other surf organizations.
We provide free surf lessons at the event so people who come to the event don't have to only be spectators, they can participate if the stoke is moving them. They can catch their first wave and get a surf lesson. Additionally, health and wellness are very important so I always want to push that. We have beach yoga and a wellness zone that we’re excited about. In the years moving forward, we want to add more festival-type components and more experiential marketing with some brands. Some people may come primarily for the health and wellness, some may come primarily to watch the competition, some people may just come for the opportunity to get a surf lesson, and some may just come for Huntington Beach since that is a place they’ve never visited before. So there are a lot of components - surf lessons, wellness, travel, tourism.
Q. Do you have a date set for next year’s A Great Day In The Stoke event?
Nate - Yeah. September 14th, 2024.
Q. Are there any black surfers that are inspiring you right now?
Nate - Yeah, there's Cheriff Fall (@fallcherif9) from Senegal. He’s at Pipeline right now, he got invited to the contest. Then there’s Mikey February (@mikeyfebruary) who is from South Africa but more Capetown side. They’re inspiring. Then there's Julian Williams (@julian.williams_). He was born in Hawaii, but he lives here in L.A now. He's looking to get sponsored. I enjoy watching Julian Surf. And then there is Sne (@sne.makhubu). She came from South Africa and competed in the last A Great Day In The Stoke surf contest. Then there’s Farmata (@farmy_) and Chelsea Woody (@chel.bythe.sea). Chelsea does work with vans. Elishama Beckford (@shama_the_superman) in Jamaica, he's pretty exciting. He’s got a lot of personality. Then there’s Olga Diaz (@olgayashira). She's not a professional surfer but is part of the community. She has the best laugh in the world and the best spirit. She's an E.R. doctor. So she’s like the best person to surf with and something happens you know, she could stitch you up or revive you on the spot. There is this guy named Kayiita Johansson (@kayiitaj) who founded @black.surfers on Instagram. So I'd like to mention Kayiita and give him his props because he's the one that really aggregates all of the things that are happening within the black surf community. He was critical for me meeting all of the black surfers and just discovering the community. So it’s a great mix of men and women in the community.
And then there's the older people like Tony Corley, who founded the Black Surfing Association in 1975. We honored him this year. Then there’s Sharon Schaffer (@sharonschaffer_aka_iemanja) who was the first black professional female surfer. Then there's a Rick blocker (@rickb155). He's like our historian. He was surfing back in the seventies. A lot of us call him Uncle Rick. So there's a lot of people in the community, a lot of cast and characters.
So I kind of see probably in the next 3 to 5 years, we’ll get to see the fruits of the labor, and see some more black professional surfers
Q. Is there any advice you'd give to your younger self or anyone else that might be around the ocean and interested in surfing but hasn't given it a try yet?
Nate - You just got to go for it. I think you got to go forward and I mean, in regards to if you could do it, you got to go for it and do it. In practicality go pay for a surf lesson so you can have the best first time experience in the sport. So that could set the foundation for you to want to come back and try it again day after and day after.
Q. Anything else you wanted to mention before we end this spotlight?
Nate - One thing I wanted to add is that A Great Day In The Stoke is the largest gathering of black surfers in history, but that doesn't mean that only black people can attend the event. The surf competition is to grow the number of black competitors but anybody of any ethnicity and background is welcome to attend and support the event and participate in everything else we have going on. So September 14th, 2024, save the date and come to Huntington Beach for the next A Great Day In The Stoke event.
Follow along on Nate's journeys here: @worldwidenate
Learn more about Nathan AKA World Wide Nate here: www.worldwidenate.com
Learn more about A Great Day In The Stoke here: www.agreatdayinthestoke.com
All the photos were taken by Phillip Hernandez