In the summer of 2004, I was General Manager of Cleanline Surf Company. After 15 years of witnessing women and girls coming into the shops to have their boyfriends, sons and husbands get set up to go surfing (and not them), I decided to put on a weekend surf instruction event for women and girls to attend. Curious if the reason they weren’t trying surfing was because there was no pathway for them to and knowing that women like to learn the skills first before just jumping into something, I thought this might be the case for the lack of women surfing in the Northwest. In 1989 when I started surfing with a bodyboard here, there were just four of us local women who surfed in Seaside. With not much of a women’s surfing community presence and with 99.9% of them men, even more a possibility of why women weren’t pursuing it. (Note: I started riding a surfboard a few years later.)
About 16 women joined our first surfing instruction weekender. We had teens, 20 and 30 somethings and Moms join us for it. Over the first day’s lesson, we covered all the essential basics from how to tug on a tight 5mm wetsuit to how to pull off their first “pop-up”on a surfboard. Each woman and girl came from different personal experiences with the ocean. Some had only entered it as a kid living in the NW, where the ocean temps can be a chilly 50 degrees. They had fond memories of turning blue but still loving it. Others had experiences on vacations where the water was tropical and “bikinis only” required to play in the warm waves. Most felt a bit anxious, fearful and nervous about surfing in the cold, blue grey waves of the North Pacific. We did our very best that day as surfers and instructors to nurture, coach and provide a supportive learning environment for them. Then it happened!
On the second morning of the weekender, the ladies had begun to create a sweet bond with one another. The teens were no longer wearing their makeup or talking about their boyfriends. Being a “surfer girl” was what they were focused on now. Moms were expressing their feelings of childhood joy with this newly discovered sport and considering this a great way to connect with their teen daughters. The 20 and 30 somethings loved how athletic it was and the great shape that they were going to get into surfing. Over their cups of coffee and hot cocoa, they shared what muscles were sore and how great they had slept, with that “surfed out” feeling where you sleep like a baby. Before my eyes they were now “surf sisters” excited to surf waves again together.
After the morning surf review, we had them paddle out to us in the waves and begin catching them on their own. With a perfect small swell running, the group was beginning to judge on their own when to paddle and when to pop up to their stance, riding the waves into the shore. The feeling that I was then taken over by was one I had never felt before…an epiphany. Right before me this once group of strangers were now a community of women surfers, riding waves, hooting each other on, laughing and blissful in all their responses. I felt this overwhelming feeling taking me over…this is it! This is what I am supposed to be doing in my life, teaching women surfing and sharing the life transformation that comes from it. I’ve never looked back. That spring, I started NW Women’s Surf Camps and the unique program we’ve offered for the last 19 years here on the North Coast of Oregon and on the Island of Kauai.
Our shared vision is to grow sustainably and expand the NW women’s surfing community here in the Pacific NW, so that a lasting legacy remains for future women to be part of. By partnering with talented and experienced instructors, local and regional business partners and ocean conservation organizations, we bring unique surfing opportunities to the public.