The Broadcast / Danielle Black Lyons: From Exclusivity To Accessibility

Danielle Black Lyons: From Exclusivity To Accessibility

A surfer, community leader and co-founder of Textured Waves, we talk to Danielle Black Lyons about her surfing journey and creating an inspiring community to help more women of colour to take to the water.


7 min read

Written by Autumn Kitchens

Photography by Dylan Gordon, David Gray & Abbi Hughes

“Surfing is for everyone, so shouldn’t everyone feel represented, celebrated and seen?"

- Danielle Black Lyons

“Step into the ocean and you will be received.” This is the nature of the sea and yet, historically, so many people have been left out of the profound sport of surfing. Despite the singular imagery often portrayed within the sport, the industry finds itself in a reckoning to recognise the presence of people of colour within the lineup. Creating representation and accessibility within the sea, free surfer and California native Danielle Black Lyons is a part of this revolution, changing what has historically been known as an exclusive sport to a lifestyle that women of all hues can see themselves in.

During a recent trip with Textured Waves, I got to spend some time talking and surfing with Danielle. As we discussed the current state of the industry, Black Lyons made some excellent points, arguing, “Surfing is for everyone, so shouldn’t everyone feel represented, celebrated and seen? For the past 60 years we have had an over saturation of the white surf experience in media, films and ads. It’s beyond time we learn about other cultures, communities and organisations and how they experience surfing in their part of the world.”

To create a world where people dream beyond their area code, there must first be pioneers, dare devils, and light bearers. Danielle Black Lyons is undeniably a fire burning bright in the surf industry right now. Co-founder of Textured Waves, a surf collective started to “propagate the culture and sport of women’s surfing towards women of colour and underrepresented demographics through representation, community and sisterly camaraderie,” Danielle has impacted women around the world, including myself, through her journey in the water.

Black Lyons began her journey in the water as a young bodyboarder in Northern California surrounded by a family of “aquaholics” but didn’t start surfing until a surf trip to Hawaii during university.

When asked about her introduction to the sport, she recalled her first surf trip saying, “I always wanted to try surfing but never had access or opportunity until I went to the Big Island freshman year at university with a friend on Christmas break. I stayed at her family home in Kona and her little sister let me borrow her longboard at a gentle little reef. I caught my first wobbly wave with a sea turtle gliding under my feet. It was an instant obsession after that. I consumed every piece of surf culture I could, bought my first board and wetsuit and started teaching myself to surf in the Pacific Northwest. I then went from body surfing, to bodyboarding, to surfing longboards, to mid lengths, to fish back to longboards. Now I ride most everything but shortboards. That might change, but I’m pretty stoked off the crafts I ride nowadays. I love doing this sport. It came into my life when I was ready to receive it and it’s just made me so happy!”

Since that first trip in Hawaii, she’s surfed all over the world. She’s surfed in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Australia, Ghana and having lived in England for four years, familiarised herself with surf breaks along the Kent coastline. Like most of her surf journey, Danielle has found a way to use her passion for surf-centred travel and make an impact through the annual surf retreats she leads with Textured Waves. This year’s winter surf retreat happened to be in one of her favourite countries to surf.

Like any other surf obsessed beach bum, I had to ask more about her favourite break and she didn't disappoint, explaining, “My favourite surf break is Popoyo, Nicaragua. It’s a fun, consistent A frame, with just the right amount of spice to it. I love the wave because I can ride a log or a mid-length depending on conditions, which I have seen range from 2-12 feet. I have been surfing this wave for the past five years and the local people are always kind, friendly and welcome me back with a smile.”


Like I mentioned previously, I was fortunate enough to spend time in the water with Danielle during the 2024 Textured Waves Cowash Retreat, a surf retreat centred around women of colour who love to surf. Having looked up to her for years prior, I often found my eyes following her in the water. A force to be reckoned with. Every wave she took off on was intended with grace and style. At times, having to defend her waves, she would simply give a hoot and holler and people pulled back with respect.

We’ve entered an age where the world is having more conversations on “diversity and inclusion” or the impact of “representation,” than ever before. Black Lyons and her presence alone in the water lets people know that we are here. But what’s most important is how her presence shows women of all ages what’s possible. It creates dreams and opportunity for those who might not have known they could paddle out in the lineup. The first time I saw Danielle and her co-founders online, I remember running my fingers through my hair - shocked by the women who looked like me with curly hair surfing on beautiful longboards. I’d dreamed of surfing but never had the imagery to put someone who looked like me on a board. The vision, the dream, the representation is the first step to access. Simply being seen in the lineup, charging, Black Lyons is bringing the world of surfing to more women.

It has to be said that there is often a lived experience that is different among communities. For women of colour, the simple “dilemma” of what to do with their kinky curly hair might stop them from entering the sea. Not because we don’t belong, but because of what we’ve been taught about ourselves and that curly hair can get a bit unruly when tossed and turned. “How do you take care of your hair while surfing?” is a question that can be answered safely and with knowledge when a community is represented. “How do you deal with racism in the water?” is another question that, had it not had been answered, I might not be surfing today.

Of course, like the trail blazer she is, her impact doesn't stop there. Through her work with Textured Waves in organising meet-ups, surf retreats and resources for women of colour all over the U.S, she has helped stitch friendships and communities of women together connected through their love of surf. It’s one thing to introduce someone to surfing, but to then offer them a collective to do it with turns the sport into a lifestyle. It creates a sustainable way for people to continue independently of Danielle and the work she’s doing. After the surf retreat, I heard tales of belly laughs and plans to meet-up back at home. “Who has surf trips lined up this year? Where are we going?” Group chats and plans to surf different countries were made because finally there was access to a community who could relate.

Danielle and her co-founders Chelsea and Martina have been extremely successful in accomplishing their mission in starting Textured Waves. They started this movement because “we had grown up with a shared lived experience of feeling othered, left out of the conversation and omitted from surfing's history books based on the colour of our skin. We wanted future generations of black and brown women to know that we have a history in the ocean and that this space is for them too. We create films & content for brands to document, promote and share the black and brown surf experience. We host retreats geared toward women of colour to create a safe space for women to develop their surf skills with the support of women who look like them. We are active in our local and virtual communities participating in panels, local surf meet-ups and events within the surf industry to normalise black and brown faces and voices in a primarily white, male sport” Black Lyons told me.

From visibility and representation to opportunity and community, we’re now looking at a world of access. Every day black and brown women enter the sea, they are debunking a myth that we don’t belong. Every day a brand, a film, or someone of influence highlights women of colour, they are letting the world know of our presence. Healing a broken ideology and creating a whole world of passionate stewards of the sea. Sometimes all it takes is one moment to see someone you can relate to doing something extraordinary to create an inspired dream.

After my time in Nicaragua with Black Lyons, her fellow co-founders and the amazing group of women that came together - I left with more community than I came with, progression within the sport I love, and inspiration that perhaps this sport is changing. When Danielle says “I want the future of surfing to be a global experience - a kaleidoscope of colour and culture,” there’s no questioning the future we’re paddling towards.


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