The Broadcast / Emma Tweddle: Finding Your People

Emma Tweddle: Finding Your People

Finding people you can connect with in the water is a formative part of surfing. Having had their own unique journey, we sat down with Emma Tweddle to discuss their experiences; from growing up with a lack of representation to finding their own surfing community.


4 min read

Words by Emma Tweddle

Photography by Chris McClean

How did you first get into surfing, was it any easy process?

My dad got me into surfing when I was around 10 or 11. We'd go on family holidays in Cornwall with our caravan, and my sister and I would have bodyboards while Dad brought his mini-mal. Eventually, I ended up stealing his board, and that was it—I was hooked. When we got home, I took a lesson at the local surf school and by 14 I was a fully fledged grom working there, washing wetsuits and spending my summers surfing. Working there helped me feel connected to the surf community around the beach, even though I didn't always see myself reflected in it.

How have you found the community, and the experience of being a non-binary surfer within that community?

I had always felt so disconnected from surf culture - being from a cold climate and not fitting the surf industry’s usual stereotype (blonde hair and bikini clad) - the surf mags and brand messaging from the 80s, 90s, and 00s were pretty clear on that. I always felt marginalised by the industry. Also as a gay woman who was more masc presenting it was nearly impossible to look around and see a role model within the industry or in the community who I could connect with. The internal shame of my queerness was hard to deal with and made it difficult for me to connect with people without feeling judged or alienated, so I stopped surfing as regularly for a while...

Growing up, I craved a larger community of female surfers. Not having any to look up to or surf with locally was hard and created barriers in my awkward teenage years. Lineups aren’t always that welcoming at the more competitive spots and I found it hard going there alone knowing I’d be going toe to toe with fully grown men, some of which were very competitive and wanted to dominate a lineup and take whatever waves they wanted. Not everyone was like that but it only takes a few bad eggs…

I still don’t really know where I sit on the spectrum. I’m fluid so it’s hard to pin point my inner gender. My identity is an embrace of many different parts of myself, the masculine and the feminine and everything in between.

Finding allies in the lineup made a huge difference for me. In my 20s, Sally and Tom (founders of Yonder Surf Academy) reached out, they were doing things differently from other surf schools. They recognised the same issues with lack of representation and genuinely wanted to make a difference in the community, creating an inclusive and safe space for everyone, no matter who you are or where you're from. The allies I've met over the years have boosted my confidence and made me feel like part of the community. I'm lucky to have surf pals across the spectrum who I can rely on for support and good vibes in the lineup.

“Finding your people makes all the difference.

Emma Tweddle

Your energy and attitude to improve your surfing is palpable. Where you get your drive from?

I love the ocean. I love being by it or in it. So the pull to the ocean and just being in that environment is strong - it’s a privilege to live so close to it and I have a lot of gratitude for that. I'm also a sporty and active person, whether it's football, hiking, or surfing. I love the challenge sports present and the opportunity to learn and improve. It's fun to compete with yourself and enjoy even the small improvements.

Is there any advice you'd give to someone who'd love to find more community in the water?

Definitely! Check out some of the awesome groups out there like Surf Yonder, Same Day Studio UK and Queer Surf Club. Finding your people makes all the difference. Look for local community meetups or film nights — connecting with others who share your passion can be super rewarding. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there; the surf community is more welcoming than you might think. Plus, having a few surf pals makes every session way more fun even if you do have to share the waves.

What helped you and what would you suggest for someone else?

Accepting myself for who I am - or the many different parts that make up who I am. As a community, we have the opportunity to create an inclusive, judgment-free space. If society were different and people didn't adhere to societal norms, there would be more equality regardless of gender or how you identify. Letting go of these norms is vital for making more inclusive spaces and transforming the industry from the grassroots up.

What do you wish you knew when starting out, that you now know about your self and about surfing?

(Very 'Ru Paul' moment coming up here...) It's going rule your life, make you very grumpy at times and you’ll have no money. But you'll also get to travel, experience different cultures, and gain fresh perspectives and a broader understanding of the world. It will be the most rewarding and freeing thing you’ll ever do.

Find your people, embrace who you are and experience the profound freedom and connection that the ocean has to offer.


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