Photo by Emily Holm

How did you celebrate the UN’s International Day of the Girl Child? This year I was fortunate enough to celebrate with Brown Girl Surf at an event held at Patagonia San Francisco on Tuesday, October 8th. Brown Girl Surf is a San Francisco Bay Area organization dedicated to “fostering a diverse, alternative women’s surf community in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the world. . . our mission is to elevate the historical significance of trailblazing female surfers, and to connect them with resources and support (and each other!) so they can continue making waves of change in their communities now and for generations to come.”

The event included a screening of Surfing Possibility: Stories of India and Bangladesh’s Surfer Girls. Brown Girl Surf founder Farhana Huq and Storytellers for Good founder Cara Jones traveled on an adventure to India and Bangladesh to meet the first female surfers in South Asia. In an article for the Huffington Post, Jones shared how she was inspired by Huq and Brown Girl Surf to share their stories:

They embody fearlessness. These are women challenging not just the extreme uncertainties of the ocean, but also societal expectations and themselves. Nassima of Bangladesh started surfing as a teenager despite being homeless and ridiculed by people who told her surfing was not for girls. She battled the waves along with extreme poverty and violence on her way to becoming a surfer who, at times, has beat out the boys. Ishita of India grew up afraid of the ocean and spent two years learning how to swim in it. Despite her parents inability to understand, she sold everything she had to buy her first surf board and now runs her own surf school.

Here they saw girls overcoming poverty, homelessness, and conservative gender norms to ride waves as equals with boys. After the screening, Huq pointed out that while there was a shared joy of surfing from the women in these narratives, “In a lot of ways these videos bring up a broader issue of class in South Asia and different experiences women have. They are all brown girls, surfing, but look at how vastly different they are.”

Photo by Emily Holm

Photo by Emily Holm

Dr. Krista Comer, author of Surfer Girls in the New World Order the only long-term study of women’s surfing remarked, ‚ÄúThis is a story about relationships. . . . About women’s relationships to each other, relationships between western and non-western women, relationships between women and the ocean.‚Äù

After the screening and Dr. Comer’s remarks there was a panel discussion that included Farhana, Mira Manickam of Surfer Grrrls Brazil!, and Dionne Ybarra of The Wahine Project. Both of these organizations are also dedicated to promoting a more diverse and inclusive surf culture for girls and women.

Do you live in the Bay Area and are disappointed that you missed the screening? Brown Girl Surf‚Äôs short film on Ishita Malaviya, India’s first female surfer, has made it into this year’s 3rd I San Francisco South Asian Film Fest. This film will be screening as part of the festival on November 10th in San Francisco. You can also view videos as well as footage from the Patagonia event.

-Emily Holm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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