UCSB’s Paddle Out Tradition: Once a Gaucho, Always a Gaucho.

On May 23, 2014, UCSB lost six of their very own to “mass murder” taken place in Isla Vista. Everyone in the community were left devastated and in fear. Many different forms of memorials and candle vigils were held to help the community heal from this tragedy. The UCSB Surf Team came together to unite the community and organized a “paddle-out” for the UCSB students who had their lives taken away by the gunman. Paddle-outs are typically held to commemorate a surfer who has recently passed. However, Isla Vista being a very large surf community since the campus is minutes away from the beach, the paddle out was an appropriate way to get the community together. The paddle out became a beautiful way for the locals to remember our fallen angels. At a paddle out, people gather to the beach, many swimming out with their surfboards, kayaks, and paddle boards into the ocean. A “ring” is formed in the water and flowers are released into the ocean along with memories of the victims and any feelings or grief to be let out and expressed. Many students were able to “free” themselves from the pain and sadness. The paddle out is hosted every year by the UCSB Surf Team to commemorate the victims of the shooting. The paddle out has helped many through their pain and grief.

UCSB’s Annual Paddle-Outs Over the Years

First Paddle Out

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A few days after the shooting, UCSB’s Surf Team unites 1,000 people on the water and 3,000 on shore to memorialize the students who have lost their lives. Flowers were thrown into the ocean and prayers were made as students, mainly upcoming graduates and friend/family of victims, held each other hand in hand in a massive ring/circle. The community came together as one to show support and grieve. 

Second Annual Paddle Out

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second annual paddle out Thousands of students attend the second annual memorial paddle-out. Many still grieving over the lost of their friends and fellow classmates

Third Annual Paddle Out

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With a much smaller turnout in the 3rd annual paddle out, fellow UCSB student, Stephanie Schechter, explains why she wasn’t disappointed with the numbers, instead that “it’s important to honor the lives of the six victims because they need a voice, their voice has been stopped. For their parents and friends it’s important to see that we still remember them.” (KEYT.) Photo Credit: Kari Dixon

Fourth Annual Paddle Out

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Paddle out 2017 The UCSB Surf Team and a few other students came together for another year to commemorate the six victims. Photo Credit: Vicky Nguyen from KEYT

A Change in Meaning/Purpose

The practice of the paddle-out was initially for those who were grieving and needed a sense of security and help through this tough time in their life. As time goes on and students graduate, the practice has become more of a memory and remembrance of our fallen angels. At the end of every ceremony, with hand in hand everyone chants, “Olé.., Olé, Olé, Ole. Gauchos, Gauchos!” The unity fight song is one that all UCSB gauchos hold close to their heart. As UCSB students, graduates and new students, we must remind ourselves that we are one community and those we’ve lost, will forever be a Gaucho.