What is Freedom in Surfing?
Updated: Apr 11
"Without that documentation, who will remember we were here?"- Danielle Black Lyons
There are growing movements, groups, and organizations across the world pushing for greater equality, diversity, and representation concerning race, gender, and sexuality in the sport of surfing. Textured Waves is one of those movements.
Co-founders Chelsea Woody, Danielle Black Lyons, and Martina Duran created Textured Waves "to propagate the culture and sport of women's surfing towards women of color and underrepresented demographics through representation, community and sisterly camaraderie."
These women have harnessed the power of modern day media to make their voices heard and to use their platform for inspiring "women of all shades, riding the waves."
We caught up with the team in a recent interview to ask an important question: What is freedom in surfing?
All 3 women emphasize how important getting in the water is for physical and mental health. Surfing is an escape, a haven of sorts. Danielle Black Lyons spoke of how her life revolves around the changing tides and swells. She said, "It may sound consuming but it feels incredibly natural and my family understands and holds that space for me." These surfers realize the individualism, release, and freedom that comes from surfing and the ocean. This is exactly why surfing is for everyone.
The team agreed that the surf community has come a long way in terms of diversity and representation but that it still has a long way to go. Chelsea Woody commented that it is nice to see major brands in the industry starting to take first steps towards inclusion. Danielle noted that progress has been slow in her opinion but that there has been a lot of "catch-up" in the past few years with the boom of the BLM movement. The women made clear though that more change is very much still needed. This means center stage, behind the scenes, and in the audience. We are slowly starting to see this progression but inequalities still exist in the lineup and niche parts of the industry such as photography or journalism.
"Only time will tell if we have gone deep enough."- Danielle Black Lyons
The women also spoke about their own personal experiences with identity and representation within surfing. Although each have had different upbringings, different experiences, and have their own unique identities, they have not let misrepresentation in the industry go unnoticed. Martina Duran in particular remarked about her positive surfing experiences living in Hawaii. She said, "I feel very supported in my community, the lineups are as diverse as the community I live in." However, it is not like that everywhere. She mentioned that black and brown surfers are most often presented under a savior complex in the bigger scope of surfing.
For example, popular imagery that often circulates are images of someone coming into a poor neighborhood and teaching kids how to surf. While those stories are important, "these images need to be balanced with surfers that aren't introductory level," explained Martina. Speaking to the power of representation, the progression, talent, and drive of surfers of diversity need to be represented as to showcase that someone who is not white, cis-gendered, or male can be successful and perform in the sport. Diversity in surf media also depicts to younger surfers that they are capable of success. When they see someone who looks like them on TV or in a magazine, it provides acknowledgement and determination.
Community in the sport of surfing is just as important to help build the unity and inclusion that is needed to push for equality and representation in the water. Textured Waves strives to create connection between people with a love and passion for surfing in the black and brown surf community. Being apart of a community also gives you the opportunity to learn from others who have been where you are and to understand different perspectives, mentioned Chelsea Woody. Community fosters both diversity and shared understanding and surfing needs just that.
"It is so important because it allows the next generation to build off of the community that has formed."- Chelsea Woody
Lastly, the female side of surfing has long been underrepresented in this sport. The team urged the fact that there are so many different types of women who surf and how the imagery in surf media needs to be reflective of that diversity. Just as important, diversity of editors, writers, photographers and others who live in the surf scene should be given the same equality in terms of race and gender. This is a serious goal of the Textured Waves team and it should be a goal of the surf community as a whole.
Textured Waves is just one group of women but they are leaving a huge impact. Their message is powerful and I hope that more people continue to listen and help to implement change in the industry.
"Change has to occur both internally and externally to be effective. We'd love to see brands have a diverse representation on both the marketing side, research and development, and in campaigns. We also feel those behind and in front of the lens must reflect a diverse community to share different stories from different perspectives."- Textured Waves Team
Textured Waves Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/texturedwaves/
Textured Waves Website: https://www.texturedwaves.com