We are excited to share with you a creative experiment we have been concocting over here at Brown Girl Surf TM! This week's blog will feature voices of three different surf personalities, including Dr. Krista Comer, author of Surfer Girls in the New World Order. I know -- EXCITING! The idea behind this blog series is to bring together various guest voices to share different perspectives on surfing, cool surf projects, women's empowerment and life! Don't worry -- you'll still get a juicy surf-life tip or two, but now you'll get to hear from more people as they share their years of experience, widsom, advice and perspectives. And well, you know what they say about the benefits of collective wisdom. Enough explaining! In the spirit of brevity, let's begin! We'll be recounting the day we met up with rad surfer girl, Mira Manickam, as she shared with us her wetsuit dunking tactics, among other things. Yes, we did manage to capture her technique on video. Check it out.....and continue reading for the rest of the story!
The Day According to Farhana Huq
Founder, Brown Girl Surf TM
Mira is the type of person that just makes you smile and laugh when you are in her presence. As a gesture of goodwill and sisterhood, I wanted to send her off in official brown girl style. I therefore made sure I fully equipped her with an arsenal of highly stylish brown girl surf paraphernalia. Here we are at Noriega, sporting our Irene Cara/ Flashdance-inspired brown girl surf sweatshirts. Don’t ya just want one now?
Mira surfaced from the ocean a bit later. As she was taking her gear off and discussing her ninja training videos with Krista, I couldn’t help but notice her extremely innovative wetsuit system. I knew it was a brown girl surf video moment that I needed to capture for all of you. And thus, my faithful readers, I hope you find wisdom and solace in this innovative wetsuit dunking system.
And, I hope you get a chance to check out Mira’s super cool Surfer Grrrls Brazil project! Thanks for following Brown Girl Surf’sTM journey to find and share the stories of trailblazing females surfers from around the world!
Signing off from Ocean Beach, CA!
The Day According to Krista Comer
Author, Surfer Girls in the New World Order
One of our strategies for take-over includes me writing on the blog. I have never written on a blog before, so I hope you will bear with me while I travel on my own learning curve of a journey to write not like a university professor but more like a for real person, who, today, my friends, has just driven over the Bay, past Golden Gate Park, to the Great Highway and turned south. (We won’t dwell on the part where I forget money for the Bay Bridge toll and have to beg it off the guy in line behind me.)
Farhana and I are meeting up with Mira Manickham who is going to Brazil to create music and hip hop videos celebrating women surfing along the southern Atlantic coast through her project, Surfer Grrrls Brazil! The project got its birth through the Matt Baxter Memorial Award at NatureBridge, where until recently Mira ran an environmental education youth program for Bay Area teens. She's also run another green jobs youth internship in Oakland as a Together Green Conservation Fellow. Check out Mira's work planting trees and rapping with youth - Trees 4 Life. Pretty amazing stuff. Our meeting today will give us some last-minute updates about the project to share with you and I am going to hand over a check to Mira because I definitely want to support this video! Then Mira will take a surf at Noriega Street while Farhana and I scheme from the sand.
After about fifteen years of research and world travel focused on the subculture of women's and girls’ surfing, this meeting with Mira at Noriega Street could be just another day in research paradise for me. But no! Something new and different has happened in my work with surfers, because my book has circulated in ways I didn’t expect. I did expect the book to be reviewed in academic journals and all that, and I will post a couple of reviews so you can see what people are saying (some of them are professors who surf). But the thing I didn’t expect was for SURFERS to contact me or to tell me what the book means to them. What they/you are saying is that the book gives them a new framework for understanding the world today of women's and girls’ surfing. So this unexpected development is opening another new journey for me, in addition to the blog writing, which is to take my work as a scholar more “to the streets” so to speak, or to the water and surrounding coastal communities, where I hope to share my ideas so they can have a different kind of public life or impact.
Last summer, one of these surfers, our own Farhana, called me to say she had read the book and wanted to ask, kind of jokingly, whether I needed a research assistant? You know how your friends ask in jest for something they hope you will think is a good idea? Yea, it was that. But Farhana’s happened to be a great idea, a super great idea! The only problem is that university professors don’t have dot.com salaries so I couldn’t just dash off some money for her to fly instantly to India or Bangladesh or Gaza and then report to me about it . . . but has that stopped us from saying, hey, this is a journey worth taking and we’ll figure it out as we go along? Absolutely not! Here we are, barely a year later, sitting beachside at Noriega Street, dreaming up a way to introduce female surfers who do amazing projects to one another, bridging the gap between worlds of the university and surfing activism, and getting the technology platforms together so it all can be brought to you courtesy of Brown Girl Surf TM.
Now, Mira Manickam is just the kind of trailblazing person whose work Brown Girl Surf TM wants you to know about. When she pulls up to meet us at Noriega Street, she’s kind of happily breathless, apologizing for being late (which she is not). She is tall, totally fit, an open face, bouncing curls, and when she talks she shrugs her shoulders inward with a little laugh. So this Ninja, this rapper, this studly surfer who handles Ocean Beach, is also kind of girly shy. She is telling us she wishes she had brought her long board, rather than the short board strapped on top of her car, because the surf is blown out. There are last night’s festivities, too, on her mind, friends staying over at her house, sleeping it off, while she gets out the door to have a surf so she can de-stress from the million last minute things to do before leaving for Brazil.
“Surfer Grrrls Brazil” is Mira’s way to combine her passions for music, surfing, and activism for girls’ empowerment. The project aims to document women and girls’ surfing on the southern Atlantic Coast and ultimately to create new global communities of surfers who can inspire girls to take risks and learn from surfing to live large lives, lives without limits! Grassroots video is a great medium for this goal since it isn’t motivated to sell a commercial product and won’t use women’s bodies to promote cars or makeup or underwear. What that means is there is some hope of picturing women, visualizing women and girls, differently, meaning not as objects for some purpose (making money usually) that is not about them. Mira believes that putting pictures and images of girls and women doing sport into circulation will help invent new ways for women and girls to think about their bodies and what they can do and be.
What is so really important about Mira’s vision is she puts women and girls of color at its center. This topic of race is a really big one, and it gets people kind of freaky, so I’ll save it, and my conversations with Farhana about it, for another blog!
Who would have thought that those two women sitting on the beach, Farhana and Krista, laughing a lot, were having this kind of “brown girl surf” talk? Awesome, huh?
Ok, this is enough for my first blog. Farhana has a long list of things she wants me to talk about so there will be others soon.
But what about you, reader? What do you think, about any of this?
The Day According to Mira Manickam
Producer, Surfer Grrrls Brazil!
But I had made a date at Ocean Beach for that morning with Farhana, who in a short time has become a good friend, and I didn’t want to bail. She mentioned that she’d be bringing Krista Comer, a scholar and author whose written about women’s surf culture around the world and has been a big inspiration to her. My brain was also starting to collapse in on itself from moving/planning/packing overload, much like a soufflé that’s been sitting in the sun too long. Surfing was the only thing that could save me.
I reminded myself not to speed as I headed to our meeting point at Noriega, 15 minutes late. Hold it together kid. But when I stepped out of the car, into the sunshine with that vast blue ocean just across the street, well, let’s just say that hope springs eternal. Hugs all around from Farhana and Krista and my first deep breath in a couple hours. Aaahh..... These are the people who inspire and nurture me.
The ocean was a wreck that day. Blown out spring conditions at Ocean Beach. I probably would have been better off walking on the sand with Krista and Farhana, whose achilles tendon is still recovering from a major tear. But I needed to get in the water, even if it just meant being sloshed around in some crumbly shapeless waves (which, as it turned out, is exactly what it meant).
I managed to stay in a rip current so the paddle out wasn’t too terrible, only about 10 minutes. I often curse out loud while trying to reach the break at Ocean Beach. A couple minutes of disappointing dissolving waves, then I caught my best chance of the day, but tumbled out half way down, managing to smack my left knee into my dehydrated, sleep deprived right calf muscle, triggering a quick and sudden cramp. I’d only just started, so no way was I heading back in. I just flexed my foot hard to stretch the muscle as I paddled out again. This time the paddle was a word I’d rather not use in print
But a pelican flew overhead, the water was popping blue green in the bright sunshine, and the blood was flowing fast through my arms. This was way better than sitting at my desk maniacally settling my apartment bills and editing an internet video while simultaneously trying to pack up the wreckage of my belongings exploded on my bedroom floor. Right there in the ocean was where I wanted to be right then.
The past couple weeks have been a little nuts. One might say I am in a moment of transition. I decided to quit my job and dedicate myself to a project that is taking me to Brazil, where (in addition to surfing) I’ll be making music and hip hop videos celebrating my and other women’s surfing adventures.
But in the water at ocean beach, I wasn’t thinking of any of this, just battling through the white water to get back out to the break. Surfing on windy days can be a pain, but it’s kind of fun how quick the wind swells just come up on top of each other, forcing quick reactions if you want to catch anything. After an hour or so of much drifting, paddling, very few waves caught, and sweet glorious sunshine, I belly rode in to meet back up with Farhana and Krista at the cars on Noriega.
Krista and Farhana were full of ideas and excitement about their research plans and my project. Farhana had even brought gifts from Brown Girl Surf TM! Some stylin’ t-shirts to give to the inspirational girls I meet in Brazil and a sweet flash-dance style sweatshirt for me. And Krista, having only just learned about my project, gave me an extremely generous donation for Surfer Grrrls Brazil! My first contribution!! After more hugs and future plans made, we said goodbye, I got back to my disaster of an apartment, finished my project video, launched my Indiegogo campaign, and pretty much packed for the next 40 hours straight. I was still running bags of garbage to the dumpster across the street when the airport shuttle came to pick me up at 4 the next morning, but I am sure glad I took the time to make it to Ocean Beach.
I feel like we are creating the type of culture and community around girls surfing that we want to see, and this feels very exciting, like we are holding each other up with many hands, many ideas, and much love. I’m proud to be in the Brown Girls Surf TM Network, and am unspeakably grateful to Farhana and Krista. I feel a little bit like I am paddling through the white water right now, but I see that break out there, and it sure looks sweet. And just wait, I’m about to drop into a big one.