About 15 years ago, I was a shy editorial intern at a surf publication in south Orange County. As my first editorial experience, I quickly learned many things, but one in particular stood out: it was clearly a man’s world at the magazine and within the surfing world in general. The magazine’s editorial staff was dominated by guys in board shorts only talking about more guys who were professional surfers charging the biggest and best waves. Though women surfers were participating in the same industry, they were not recognized like their counterparts. The only time a woman would appear in the magazine was if she was part of an advertisement.
As years passed, a woman’s voice began to surface from the depths and those advertisements evolved into a few stories and then the cover story of said magazine written by women writers and editors, as well. Eventually, the industry made great strides toward items like sponsorships and equal pay and now, more than ever, this progress has given young surfers a diverse roster of heroes to look to for inspiration.
When we look at a story from a different perspective, it allows room for more understanding, empathy and growth. Diversity in innovation creates a far more diverse innovation landscape and with that comes advanced solutions to bigger problems, partnerships that may have never been and products or services that can change lives.
In honor of Women’s History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating women’s contributions to history, remember those who have and are making strides in our small but mighty world of surfing. From the little girl to learning to surf on a soft top to women leadership within industry to innovative shapers and shredders and gliders, in every corner of the surfing world, there has and always will be room for women of all ages, creeds, races, religions and more to take on the yesteryear thought and mold it into actionable and meaningful results that catapults the surfing world into an even bigger and better wave of success.
Below are some of my favorite, noteworthy women surfers and organizations who have inspired me in my journey:
Lisa Andersen: Often touted for being one of the best female surfers of all time, Andersen’s sheer skill, ability, tenacity and career speaks for itself. Read her book: Fearless
Liz Clark: A waterwomen if I ever saw one, Clark first embarked on her epic voyage with Swell in 2006 and had since sailed it down the coast of California to Center America and then to the South Pacific. Read her book: Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening
Black Girls Surf: Founded in 2014 by longtime surfer and U.S. Coast Guard Veteran Rhonda Harper, this international non-profit provides training and experience to women who’s career goals are competing as professional surfers.
Sensi Graves Swim: Founded out of a need for better fitted ‘kinis in 2012, Sensi Graves, a professional kiteboarder, created a brand that not only rocks cute and environmentally-friendly prints that function well in action sports, but also promotes a body-positive image and feel.
Paige Alms: The first female big wave world champion in 2016, Alms is touted for her barrel riding skills and sheer bravery. She and the entire women’s team in the WSL big wave arena are working hard to push boundaries and slash stereotypes for women in big wave surfing.