Redefining California Surf Culture
Gage Crismond is a photographer, creative director, dancer, and surfer who draws inspiration from all areas of his life, especially his community. As co-founder of the surf collective Black Sand, Gage is committed to combating racism in the sport, and spreading positivity and inclusivity as he works to revitalize and redefine California surf culture as we know it.
You’re from Michigan; how did you end up surfing in LA?
After college, I visited LA and I just knew. But I wasn’t ready yet. I’m proud of my confidence now, but I wasn’t always like that. A big part of my journey was finding that confidence, trusting it. My heart told me, “I need to go, to figure out a way to do dance and photography. I'm just gonna drive out to Los Angeles and do it.”
When did you first discover your love of dance and art?
I think I was 10 at the time. Dance was really the first art avenue I went down. As soon as I tried it, I loved it —and my love for it progressed along with my interest in music. I'm just so passionate about the way I hear music. It’s impossible not to envision moves when I’m listening.
How do you stay inspired?
Even when I'm not personally feeling inspired, having people around who are, who are coming up with ideas, who are open books — it inspires me to keep growing. Surrounding yourself with other people in different communities helps you understand who you are, see different aspects of yourself and gives you a better understanding of other people.
“I find that having a variety of friends is important because you are gifted with understanding other people and influencing others, not just within your own culture.”
How does the queer community influence you?
I grew up in the queer community, dancing. There were a couple of friends I had that were so inspiring to me as dancers, and their style was always so cool. They were queer men, and I really looked up to them. They would always just be exactly who they wanted to be. No questions asked. I was like, 'Wow. That's how I wanna be.”
How has learning more about yourself influenced your style?
I've been able to be true to who I am and be carefree about what I’m wearing. I don’t worry about if it's women’s or men's apparel. One thing I love about Dockers is there’s a unisex vibe, and I don’t have to think too hard about how things will fit because I already know that they do. I can just look at a piece and say, “Wow, that’s a beautiful color. I love that material.” That’s my favorite way to shop.
If I feel confident in my clothes, what I'm wearing every day, then I have enough power to be confident in everything else. With my style, I'm giving you a big chunk of me, so anything else I do, I'm gonna be confident in that, no matter what anyone thinks about it.
How did you discover your love of surfing?
I won't lie. Surfing took a minute to come to me. I would be at the beach, but never thought about surfing. I wanted to do it and at the same time, I asked myself why I was so scared to.
I tried to think of how many Black surfers I knew and the answer was none. I grew up in Michigan, which was super racist. I hate to say it, because I was surrounded by people who tried not to be, but they were still racist. I grew up with that cliché line, 'Oh, you swim?' Even though, in the moment, it doesn't make you cry, it still gets in your brain: 'I'm not supposed to do that.'
“If I feel confident in my clothes, what I'm wearing every day, then I have enough power to be confident in everything else.”
Did this realization play a role in the creation of Black Sand?
The first time I met [Black Sand co-founder] Brick, I was following him on Instagram and messaged him on a whim. I said, 'Hey, I've been surfing and there are no Black people. We should link up.' The next morning, I picked him up and we went. Quickly, we realized this needs to be a thing. Obviously, there was nobody else like us in the water.
Brick Tre’lan [the third co-founder of Black Sand] and I want to provide a place where people can get involved in spaces where they're not usually comfortable. Right now, Black Sand is focused on surfing, but, to us, it's a lot bigger than that. Black Sand is about teaching people to be confident in who they are, helping them attack anything they wanna do.
How do you see people of color impacting surf culture?
Oh, it's going to completely alter the entire sport. There's gonna be new talent, new culture. What surf culture is right now, that whole thread of localism, all of that's gonna change because a lot of that is, unfortunately, rooted in racist and capitalist mindsets — this I-deserve-to-be-here-more-than-you-do vibe.
Surfing depends a lot on style. The world hasn’t even seen half of what true style looks like, as more Black and brown people get in the water and do this the way they wanna do it.
What does it mean to you to be recognized?
I don't feel like there's anything that's super special about me other than being very vocal about how I feel about society and culture. But to be young myself and to have other, younger generations look up to me, and to know that other people are listening is amazing.
Being a part of Recognize means that we are showing value in representation. It means we’re highlighting even the little bit of representation that we already have within these industries. Being able to say, 'Hey, look at what's here,' is very, very important.
“Black Sand is about teaching people to be confident in who they are, helping them attack anything they wanna do.”
Recognize is about celebrating inspiring community members, contributors and influencers making a difference with their distinct perspectives, style and commitment to finding purpose in their passions. Through Recognize, we will amplify Black stories, employ diverse talent, and invest in opportunities — throughout the year and beyond. This is not a campaign. This is a celebration of Black excellence.