SurfearNegra - THE WOMEN BEHIND WOMEN'S SURFING NGOS SERIES PART 4
The fourth part of our series we will hear from Gwenna "GiGi" Lucas the founder of SurfearNegra. Her passion for surfing started in 2012 while visiting Costa Rica. SurfearNegra was created to encourage more girls and women of color to explore the sport of surfing and diversify the lineup.
1. Can you share with the audience some background about your organization? (mission, goals, etc.)
SurfearNEGRA is a nonprofit organization founded in 2016 to encourage, educate and engage more women and girls of color in the sport of surfing.
Our three pillars are:
(1) Strategic Partnerships (we partner with existing organizations interested in incorporating diversity initiatives into their programming and/or product);
(2) Surf Camp Scholarships (we are fundraising to offset the cost to send 100 girls of color to surf camp in 2019); &
(3) ¡NEGRITAS! Gathering (we host an annual retreat to bring together influencers in the surf industry to develop strategies to amplify gender & cultural diversity in the sport).
This year, SurfearNegra just launched our first¡100 Girls! Fundraising campaign (https://ifundwomen.com/projects/diversify-lineup); a full force diversity initiative in collaboration with local surf camps around the country. Together with the support of our backers, we will be able to subsidize the cost for 100 girls of color to attend camp in 2019.
2. Each of your organizations targets a specific need/gap you saw in a local community and/or the surf community in your respective locations. What were some of these needs/gaps, and what are the steps you took to address this/these gap(s)?
About two years after moving to the Guanacaste area of Costa Rica, I wondered why I was still the only woman of color in the lineup at such an accessible location [From the United States]…and, this is when the idea for SurfearNegra was born. The original idea was to simply create a social media group where we could find each other, communicate and share our experiences. What it has now evolved into is a platform and vehicle to amplify gender & cultural diversity initiatives with existing surf organizations.
3. For you personally, what was the primary motivation to get involved with this cause/issue, and using surfing as part of the strategy to create change? What aspects of your own upbringing, sporting or cultural experiences lead you to this?
I grew up barefoot on the beaches of Florida. My brother and I did not have a typical upbringing because we spent most of our weekends watching our parents compete in catamaran regattas. Being one of few (if not the only) families of color in the sailing community, I learned at an early age to never allow the fear of being the only one to discourage my thirst for exploration.
When I began surfing at the age of 35, it didn’t resonate with me that the overall image of the sport was so homogeneous until I started looking at it from a business perspective 2.5 years later. Being that I have an extensive background of growing brands in diverse regions, I immediately saw the gap in the surfing industry that could tremendously impact the bottom line. Women of color have notoriously been known to swing the pendulum of business when they are represented in marketing and focused on as a target demographic. Hopefully, this fact will encourage more of the “major surf brands” to invest their dollars and resources in diversifying their teams and marketing.
4. As an organization, what are some of the challenges you are facing at the moment? What are some of the strategies you are using to help overcome these challenges?
In any business, resources (manpower, capital, etc.) are always limited when you’re starting out. I believe the key is to stay focused on the “long game” and realize that Rome won’t be built in a day. In addition, it is important to do what you can, when you can. For example, if we can send 1-2 girls to surf camp now versus waiting for all 100 to go in 2019, why not do it? By doing so, we can learn from the experience to make the process more effective as we grow while also creating groundswell because our community can actually see the results of our endeavors.
5.This will be a three-part question. I am sure you all are aware of this; on Thursday, September 6th the World Surfing League (WSL) announced equal prize money would be awarded to both male and female surfers.
a. When you first heard what were some of your reactions?
It’s about time. And, hats off to Sophie Goldschmidt for doing it on her watch!
b. Do you think this will have any impact on your organization?
For sure! It will make the sport more enticing for young girls to see the potential return on their time investment. After all, to be any kind of competitive athlete requires a huge sacrifice of time and money.
c. What areas still need to be addressed in terms of equity in surfing?
Cultural representation. We all know that surfing is historically an indigenous sport. So, why are we not ensuring that we promote the best athletes period instead of what fits the traditional narrative?
6. Tokyo 2020 is a big year, with surfing making its debut at the Olympics. Have you seen an increase in interest in surfing NGOs as a response to Olympic inclusion? (e.g., in people wanting to learn how to surf, more interest from volunteers, more support from donors, industry, corporations).
I think the buzz is definitely out there and interest is on the rise. However, I’m not 100% convinced that the diversity challenge in surfing will be resolved in 1.5 years. Regardless, I am personally ecstatic about what the exposure will do for the sport.
7. Finally, based on your experiences, what do you see as the biggest challenges for women trying to create social and community change via surfing NGOs? And why is it important for women to be involved in leading such initiatives? Do you feel women bring something different to this type of work?
That’s a tough question because I believe women can, literally, do anything. If I were to choose a challenge, it would probably be the fact that there are women who have what I call a “poverty mentality”. This means that they don’t believe there is enough opportunity for everyone to shine at their brightest. Some women may feel that there is only room for one women-led organization. Only room for one woman of color social media influencer. Only room for one crazy talented woman of color professional surfer. When the truth is that no other demographic struggles with that issue. Hopefully, we move forward as a community with the assurance that the opportunity in the surf is endless and our roles are limitless.
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The third part of our series we will hear from the co-founders of Solwota Sista, Stephanie Mahuk Sam Suendermann...
A five-part series profiling different surfing NGOS and the women leading them...