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The Women Bringing More Diversity to California’s Surf Scene
Health & Fitness

The Women Bringing More Diversity to California’s Surf Scene

Learn about the California women making waves in the sport of surfing and advocating for more diversity in the water.

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2 min read

December 08, 2020

Women’s competitive surfing has grown in popularity over the years, and participants in this sport have grown more diverse as female surfers have advocated for equality across the board. Some female surfers have broken records while competing alongside their male peers; Maya Gabeira, for instance, successfully rode the biggest wave in the 2019–2020 winter surfing season—a first for women's professional surfing. 

But when people are asked to describe a California female surfer, what often comes to mind are images of blonde, blue-eyed women who look a lot like Kate Bosworth in the 2002 competitive surfing–focused movie, Blue Crush. But in real life, not all California surfers fit the archetype portrayed in most Hollywood films. Today’s female surfers come from different backgrounds and in varying shapes and sizes. These women are proof that the California surf scene is more diverse than it’s perceived to be. 

Textured Waves Founders

Textured Waves is a surfing collective striving to get women of all shades riding the waves. Photo courtesy of Textured Waves.

Female surfers are breaking barriers: They’re surfing bigger waves and showing that they can dominate in the sport together with the boys. But there is a serious lack of imagery of women surfers of color, which is why Danielle Black Lyons, Chelsea Woody, Martina Duran, and Gigi Lucas formed a group called Textured Waves in 2019. Their goal is to promote diversity in the water and get more women of color involved with surfing. They also aim to create opportunities for Black youths to start the sport. Back in July, the Textured Waves founders released a short film titled Sea Us Now, which is based on the historical imagery that people see of surfing, and it aims to make people question why there aren’t a lot of Black beach culture images in physical archives and on the Internet. Two of the founders are based in California; Woody lives in Santa Cruz, while Black Lyons is based in San Diego.

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Rhonda Harper

Black Girls Surf was founded by California's Rhonda Harper, who helps women of color get involved with surfing. Photo courtesy of Black GIrls Surf.

Rhonda Harper started Black Girls Surf and made it her mission to teach more women of color how to surf and compete. In an interview with CGTN America, Harper said that upon arriving in California, the first thing that struck her was that there were very few Black female surfers in the water, and when they would surf, people would find it odd—as if the notion of a Black surfer was completely unheard of. After getting fed up with being one of the few Black women on the waves, she decided to compete on an amateur level and to begin training other women of color to ride the waves and surf competitively. Harper strives to see more people of color on the line-up and to make a difference while engaging in the sport. 

For these women, representation in the water matters, and they aim to inspire more women of color to take to the California waves. Through their initiatives, the next generation of surfers will surely defy stereotypes and conquer the world of surfing. So, whether you’re looking to hit the San Francisco surf spots or ride the rad waves in L.A., you can draw inspiration from these influential women in the Golden State.

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