How to get girls into surfing – Waves Wahines
We love surfing, we truly believe that there is nothing quite like the feeling of being out there on the water and that everyone should be able to participate in this amazing sport, no matter their age, ability or gender. Like the majority of sports though, surfing has traditionally been a male-dominated activity. Fortunately, there are incredible changes happening right now to encourage more women and girls to get involved, from the grassroots all the way up to the highest level.
One of these grassroots organisations is Wave Wahines, based in North Devon (just a stone's throw from dryrobe HQ). They run sessions aimed at getting girls aged 9 to 16 surfing and socialising in open, fun and safe surroundings with qualified instructors.
We were lucky enough to join a Wave Wahines session along with pro surfer and dryrobe ambassador Lucy Campbell, a 6 X National Women’s Surf Champion and a role model to many of the girls in the club. Lucy gave the girls her advice and then got into the water with them to share some tips and techniques.
We caught up with Yvette Curtis, the founder of Wave Wahines, and spoke to her about the inspiration behind the group and the challenges that girls getting into surfing face:
When did you get into surfing?
I actually went surfing for the first time ever the year I turned 30! I booked myself onto a weekend surf course in Cornwall and off I went. I fell off loads and I’ve been falling off ever since!
What inspired you to start Wave Wahines?
My eldest daughter wanted to surf more (she was 13 at the time) and I am terrible, so could not teach her more than wipeouts, so I looked in the local area for surf lessons. Many of the options were very boy heavy and weren’t what we were looking for. So, as a successful PT, I decided to find a way to start my own. I approached local surf school, Surf South West, and two friends Liv and Karma, who are fabulous surf coaches, and Wahines was born.
What does a typical Wave Wahines session involve?
We all meet up at the surf school and have a catch-up whilst getting boards and kit on, then it’s down to the beach for a warm up, a safety reminder, a check of the conditions and a lesson breakdown if we have new members. Then it’s leashes on and into the waves.
Who are the Wave Wahines sessions aimed at?
Currently, the sessions are aimed at ages 9-16 as these tend to be the ages that girls are most likely to fall out of mainstream sport as they transition into secondary school. I want to try and keep as many girls as I can staying active through school.
What are the kind of challenges that girls typically face when they take up surfing?
With many girls, body image is a really big thing and with the ever-increasing use of social media I don’t see the pressures easing anytime soon, so things like being in a wetsuit, getting changed, can all be daunting. Girls are more likely to dip out of competitive sports so we endeavour to keep the sessions fun and light, but always progressive.
There also seems to be so many social rules in school that it’s really great to offer the girls the opportunity to just be away from those pressures.
Have you seen an increase in girls taking up the sport in recent years?
Surfing is still a very male-dominated sport but more and more girls are taking up the sport and I think the more female based clubs are helping drive this increase. I’m a member of the Institute for Women Surfers Europe and it’s great to see so many female-focused projects out there, not just in the UK but globally.
The impact of equal pay in the WSL Championship tour (new this year) and the Big Wave Tour, thanks to the work of the women in CEWS, will definitely have helped raise the profile of the equality drive within the surfing world.
There are more positive female role models in the UK surf community today with surfers like Lucy who are promoting their surfing and body positive messages, which is huge in my opinion at changing the image of the sport and attracting even more women and girls.
Do you still run the sessions during the winter?
Yes, we run all year round. We are usually in the sea from March to the end of October and then we go into our winter program. We run surf training gym sessions, swim sessions, jewellery making sessions, roller skating, cinema visits and we are hoping to get a skateboard coach for some skate sessions this winter too.
What would your advice be to any girls looking to get into surfing?
Look for your local surf club and head down to try a session out with them. Don’t be afraid of going alone, it’s a great way to make new friends. Or ask a friend if they fancy trying it out too.
It’s so much fun, don’t let anything put you off as the feeling you get falling off waves, catching waves and walking out of the water afterwards really is incomparable.
Are there any plans to expand Wave Wahines?
Actually, yes there are! I’m very excited to say that after a recent campaign, we have now started a regular over 30s surf session.
I would love to expand further and have a ‘Teeny Wahine’ session at some point too. Perhaps one day there will be Wahine sessions for every age group. One day!
If you want to find out more about getting into surfing or find surf schools and clubs in your area, then head over to Surfing England’s website.
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