I didn’t want to challenge any stereotypes. I didn’t even want to dip my feet in – to wade in that rough, cold gray-coloured Peruvian ocean. I learnt to surf because I wanted to relive the emotions of fear, exhilaration and joy that I experienced when I went sand-surfing a few weeks prior. I wanted to reconnect with the ocean, which played a defining role during my childhood in the Caribbean.
But as a Black immigrant woman living in America, I was reminded by the documentary White Wash about the racial complexities that surround the ocean and surfing.
Consciously or unconsciously, when we step on a surfboard or swim out into the ocean we are challenging the image of who surfs.
Inspired by my own experience in Peru and by White Wash, I wanted to explore further the stories of Black female surfers. I discovered the three beautiful women that I hope inspire Black girls and women everywhere to pursue inspiration, healing, adventure, happiness, and yes, challenge limitations.
Andrea Kabwasa is an artist, teacher and surfer. At 32, she learnt to surf. In an interview with Liquid Salt Magazine, she describes how surfing helped her overcome an abusive relationship:
“Surfing saved my life…. When I discovered surfing, I was trying to recover from the psychological effects and residue of an abusive relationship. Surfing gave me joy and happiness when I hadn’t felt happiness in years. So, for me, surfing is happiness, love and self-empowerment. The act of interacting with water cleansed my inner spirit. Before surfing, the lens from which I viewed life was pretty dirty. I was filled with low self-worth and, at times, I made some pretty self-destructive choices. Surfing redirected that energy in a positive direction. When I surf, I feel beautiful. I’m a starting to feel beautiful on dry land too now.”
For Andrea, surfing isn’t about defying racial stereotypes. It is about happiness, healing, love and empowerment.
Surprisingly, I discovered Imani Wilmot, a 27-year-old Jamaican surfer and poet. Her father is considered the godfather of Jamaican surfing. Imani leads Surf Girl Jamaica, which is an all-female surf club aimed at increasing surfing amongst the female population in the Caribbean. Surf Girl Jamaica hosts a yearly surf camp for girls that seeks to promote empowerment, a healthy lifestyle and a positive outlook on life. Imani believes that surfing is inspirational and encourages all girls to try it at least once.
Anali Gomez, Black and Peruvian, dubbed “La Negra” in the Peruvian surfing world. Anali is a star in competitive surfing in South America. The daughter of a fisherman from southern Lima, Anali has won the Latin American surfing championship and won the title of World Runner-up in the youth category, the first Peruvian to win in that category.
Yes, Black girls surf.