Our latest adventure saw us out on the road putting our summer gear through its paces, where we linked up with three needle-shifting female surfers: Portuguese champion bodyboarder Joana Schenker, New York-based surfer, model and activist Farmata Dia (AKA Farmy) and local trailblazer, Joana Andrade. After a day of wild waves and intrepid trails, we sat down to discuss how the lineup and landscape has evolved over the years.
Women Of Surf: The Changemakers
How has the industry changed since you started surfing and how have you seen the space grow for women?
I’ve been bodyboarding since 2001; 22 years is a long time! I remember finding it challenging to buy equipment in my size and suiting my needs back then. Females are so normal in the water these days that an entire industry has emerged around that. We are avid consumers of surf related stuff, so we had to be taken seriously. I think this has opened so many opportunities for female surfers and athletes to pursue their goals.
Surfing has changed so much since I started and, unapologetically, there are more women in the sea than ever before! Also, the numbers of POC surfers and people in the LGBTQ communities are also rising. “Localism” is slowly starting to get washed out as the tide of new surfers comes in.
I live on an island where surfing is not practiced by many, especially women. I started surfing 3 years ago, and since then my life started to become focussed completely around surfing. I surf all around the island and, most of the time, unfortunately, I’m the only girl out there, in the middle of the guys. But when there are more girls, people tend to be very kind and not disrespectful just because we’re women. Now, I see more and more women trying to surf than one year ago, which is a good thing. I’ve heard so many times from other people that surfing is for guys, so knowing there are more women taking to surfing makes me feel very happy.
Over the years, has anyone championing women in surf been a personal inspiration, giving you the courage, confidence, and voice to drive change?
I'd say my biggest inspiration is my long term partner; he’s a great bodyboarder himself and has always pushed for a safe space for women in the water. And the amount of dedication he puts into my progression by spending hours filming, shooting water, etc – even sacrificing his own barrel time – still amazes me every time. Shout out to all the guys supporting females in the surf! You’re more important than you realise!
Some of my biggest inspirations have been women considered soul surfers. Leah Dawson, Chelsea Woody, and Kassia are just a few. They showed me that the sky’s the limit in surfing and that any goals and dreams I have in and out the water are achievable – from shaping my own custom surfboard to traveling around the world and surfing different waves. They speak up for environmental and social justice as well, not allowing anything stop them from sharing their voices.
There are three women who are my surfing inspiration: Joana Andrade, a Portuguese big wave surfer, Bethany Hamilton, who makes me keep surfing and never give up, especially because of her incredible story, and Carissa Moore, 5x world champion, who I love to see surfing; I hope one day I can surf as well as she does. These women make me want to go out and catch more and more waves in the peak, where the pros normally are. They are my personal inspiration, they give me the courage and confidence to paddle out knowing there’s no difference between a surfer girl and a surfer boy; we can all catch the same waves.
Many female surfers can find the lineup an intimidating place to be, lacking a sense of place and power in the water. If you could give them one piece of advice, what would it be?
From my own experience surfing all over the world, the rules for successfully navigating any line up are the same for men and women. Arrive with respect, wait your turn, paddle only on the waves you can actually catch, and don't waste set waves. It's about earning your place in the lineup. Be humble but also know when it's your turn and go. If you follow these tips I guarantee sooner or later even the locals will call you to catch waves.
The surfing lineup is very tricky to manage at times. Surfing with the T-boys, or testosterone boys (haha), can be intimidating and sometimes it’s hard to get a wave. I always like to enter the lineup with good feminine energy, which most lineups need. Smile and say hi to the people steady surfing, but don’t be afraid to really put your foot down and call your waves in the water. The ocean is no one’s property – we all belong there, and we all deserve to surf whatever waves we want.
If men can be out there why can’t I be? Don’t be scared to paddle out, we are no less strong than men. There might be less girls in the water, but all together, we are stronger. Don’t let a man tell you what you are or are not capable of!