When you search “surfer girl” online, images will come up that, in essence, tick off what you incorrectly assumed: blonde, thin, white. Enter Textured Waves, a collective of Black female surfers dedicated to inviting women of color and underrepresented demographics into the water.
Founded by Danielle Black Lyons, Chelsea Woody, Martina Duran, and Gigi Lucas in 2019, Textured Waves is shining a light on the people who have always been in these spaces but have never really been seen. It came from that feeling of being the only women of color waiting for waves in the surf lineups and the severe underrepresentation on their respective coasts – San Diego, Santa Cruz, and Honolulu. “It’s lonely,” Black Lyons says. “Most of us are the only brown faces in our lineups. People look at you like; do you even belong here?”
They discovered each other on Instagram and quickly found the sisterhood they so sorely needed. “The power of social media,” Duran muses. “We were just searching Instagram hashtags on Black surfing and then we formed a relationship online, which then moved to a relationship offline. When we all met up in person we clicked immediately.”
Just sharing their love for the ocean was in its way radical. “It was just exciting being able to talk openly with other surf sisters about our experiences in the water,” Woody explains. “What we do with our hair or what sunscreens work for us. It was pretty natural, but something that had just been missing.”
Duran credits this lack of community in part to the fraught relationship African-Americans have with the water. “For African people, people of African descent especially, the ocean is where we have lost so many of our ancestors. But also, alternatively, we recognize it as a place of healing. If you look at cultures in the Southern United States, for example, they use the ocean for their baptisms. So there's this duality that exists.”
Consequently, for the women, the ocean is emotionally complex. It’s their therapist, playground, and sanctuary. A countering force of freedom to offset their far-removed daily lives: Woody is a nurse, Black Lyons is a broadcast captioner and mother, and Duran does cancer registry work. And these unprecedented times have made everyday life even more taxing. With Woody working the Covid-19 frontline, and Black Lyons’ and Duran’s work lives turning remote, surfing has become an even greater lifeline. Duran explains, “It's always therapeutic especially during these times of Covid, all the protests, and all the police brutality, which we've known always existed. But the fact that we've been seeing it replayed over and over again, reliving these traumas every day… the ocean has been this nice place to equalize.”
Textured Waves recognizes the need to give more people of color access to this cathartic space and with it the importance of image-making. “Imagery is super powerful, and not seeing yourself in spaces can be polarizing and can make you think that you don't belong” Black Lyons explains. “Normalizing these images shapes who you are and who you're going to become, it sends a message that there is no ceiling.”
The lack of inclusive commercial imagery has created the illusion that Black People never were in these spaces. Woody elaborates, “It's just a lack of documentation of Brown and Black folks in these spaces, and who was behind the lens of documenting that dictated the narrative and erased us [...] That’s why we always wanted to be the curators of our imagery, tell our own story because for so long, people have been telling stories about us and not really getting it right.”
With a growing community, Textured Waves shows people who aren’t shaped or colored the way the media has traditionally presented surfers. They’re not just models holding boards, these are real women, who surf. But getting this far has taken a much-needed dose of self-acceptance, and a large part of it had to do with hair – because, yes, it’s a big deal. “My surfing journey is tied very closely to natural hair journey and my acceptance of my beauty as it was meant to be,” Duran says, and the whole Textured Waves camp nods in agreement. “When I let my hair become natural, it became less of a factor.”
Three Black women, rocking natural curls hitting the waves, it’s a beautiful revolution, the beginning of something important. “Had Textured Waves existed when I was younger, it would have opened up the possibilities of what a Black woman could be,” Black Lyons explains. “We're really doing this for future generations, to show them what's possible and that this space is theirs too. We want little Black girls to know that they belong because they always have.” We love to see it.
This article was first published on adidas' Confirmed app.