A Black man in Florida has ripped a local surfing community for being racist, he says, after his surfboard was stolen from him and nailed to a tree.
“The message was just to let me know, ‘You can’t come around here and mess with us,’” Andrew Mills told The Daily Beast. “I know they feel a certain way about me because I’m Black.”
The 41-year-old father-of-two said he went to Jupiter Beach on Friday to surf, but was interrupted when another surfer from an all-white group ran into him on the water and seemingly flipped Mills’ board on purpose.
“They were trying to throw me out the water, pushing me around,” Mills told The Daily Beast during an interview Wednesday, explaining that the men had some animosity towards him that he didn’t understand.
Mills said the group of men started to crowd around him, told him that he wasn’t welcome, and accused him of being another Black surfer they had a run-in with on another beach. Mills said he felt their views were biased because he was “the only Black surfer in the water.”
The men got out of the water and attempted to have a conversation on the beach, Mills said, to try and discuss why there was so much animosity between him and the other group of surfers. However, Mills said that he just wanted to have a good time, get back to surfing, and put all of the aggression behind them. While they were attempting to come to some sort of resolution, Mills said someone yanked his surfboard out of the back of his truck.
“Next thing you know, as they're shaking my hand, somebody behind me is stealing my board,” Mills told The Daily Beast, saying that some in the group were laughing when he discovered his board was taken and nailed to a tree on the beach.
“They want to say it's not racism,” he said. “I have always respected everybody in the water. …I will respect those as long as I'm respected.”
Mills said he didn’t go back and get his board down from the tree until Saturday and has filed a police report.
An image from the incident went viral in an Instagram post this week.
“White supremacy is a sickness, a vile thing that rears its head in so many ways,” @black.surfers captioned a series of photos Mills said he shared with the group. “A Black surfer, father, and husband, and was subjected to racially motivated vandalism and a symbolic lynching of his board. You heard that right. White surfers in Jupiter, Florida, took his board and nailed it to this tree and said it was a message.”
Mills acknowledged that he’s a good surfer, having started as a kid, and felt some members of the group who targeted him may have resented his skills—along with him being Black. Having grown up in the Palm Beach area, he said he was used to racial discrimination.
“I’ve just always been [had] a lot of racism when I’m surfing. I get that look,” he said. “Nobody’s really friendly with me.”
Now, Mills’ family, including his wife and two young sons, are concerned for their safety after social media users continue to lash out at him for saying he’s a victim.
One social media user claimed under the Instagram post that Mills was a liar and pulling the “racial card.”
“None of us here in Jupiter are racist and we’ve given him respect until he was very close to running us over in the water numerous times,” @olafsurf wrote. “I had to talk to him about it and he instantly threw out that I was being racist[,] that I was only yelling or talking to him because he was black. He’s done this at least a half a dozen times and we’re over the bullshit.”
The Jupiter surfer declined to comment when reached by The Daily Beast, while the Jupiter Beach Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Mills claimed others in the Jupiter surf community were “teaming up” against him.
“It’s becoming an issue,” he said.