Brown Girl Surf is part of the California Academy of Sciences’ new Skin Exhibit!!! This exhibit explores the incredible nature of skin across an array of animals, including humans, as well as the science behind its diversity. It also dissects how artificial, racialized concepts and meanings arose regarding skin, and are reinforced in the United States. Brown Girl Surf is featured at the end of the exhibit as an organization that is working to advance racial equity and justice in the Bay Area. The Cal Academy is a renowned scientific and educational institution in San Francisco, and hosts 1.5 million visitors a year! The exhibit will run through Jan. 2020 and we are thrilled to be part of it!
Our redesigned Surf Sister Summer Camp was a huge success! Historically, our summer camps were held Tuesdays to Thursdays in Half Moon Bay. This year, thanks to the Whale Tail Grant and a new partnership with East Bay Regional Parks, we were able to add an extra day at Alameda Crown Beach on Mondays. The additional day allowed us more time for team building, and learning about our amazing ocean. We developed an all new environmental education curriculum – including games about food chains, and activities linking climate change and pollution to our everyday actions. Through seine netting and plankton tow activities, campers discovered various critters that can be found in our local waters off Alameda – and we were surprised to find out that the same organisms can be found in Half Moon Bay! With more knowledge and curiosity, we explored the beach on the subsequent surf days and identified sea lettuce, isopods, jellyfish, crabs, and more!
We also piloted a new Counselors-in-Training Program, where girls who have been Rising Leaders for several seasons led teambuilding, environmental education, and surf activities for younger girls throughout the last session of summer camp. Clara, Shaunti, and Masai’a participated in this pilot program, and did an incredible job!!! They told us they “learned how to be leaders in a whole new way”. The girls demonstrated that our Rising Leaders are ready for more opportunities and responsibilities. We want to make the CIT program an integral component of Summer Camp in future years.
We held five Surf Sister Saturdays this spring, with a total of 69 participants and 31 volunteers! We had a lot of first-time participants this spring – including a group of girls from the Urban Promise Academy in Oakland! There was an explosion in demand this year, with one of the sessions having 43 people on the waitlist!! We continually get feedback that there is no other organization that does what we do – create a safe, inviting, and accessible space for girls and women of color to connect with the ocean, the sport of surfing, and each other. We are stoked to fill an unmet need in so many lives. The 2019 Spring Surf Sister Saturdays were supported by the CA Coastal Conservancy (Explore the Coast program), Youth Outside, Patagonia, San Francisco Foundation, and other institutional partners – and your individual contributions! With your support, we are working hard to increase the number of surf program days to match our growing community!
On April 20, we held our annual Earth Day Fun Day at Lake Merritt Channel Park, in partnership with the Oakland Museum of California and the City of Oakland Environmental Services. This year, we did a deep dive into understanding estuaries - where fresh water meets ocean water. Did you know that Lake Merritt is an estuary? That means it’s connected to the ocean! One longtime volunteer told us, “You are totally blowing my mind right now!” after learning that the tides affect Lake Merritt and observing for herself the difference in water levels and current direction at the beginning of our day vs. at the end.
We also played a game, “That Critter was seen Where?!” as part of our discussion of animals that live both in Lake Merritt and in the ocean... including bat rays and leopard sharks!! Estuaries are incredibly productive places, with abundant food and shelter for many animals. Trash and pollution in estuaries, like Lake Merritt, can end up in the ocean, and can affect the health of the many animals that depend on the estuary.
Armed with a deeper understanding of why our efforts matter, we then carried out various habitat restoration projects and trash removal at Channel Park. Thanks to the Whale Tail Grant from the CA Coastal Commission for helping us make this day possible!
On March 27, Brown Girl Surf traveled to Sacramento for the Parks Now Day at the Capitol! Mira gave multiple testimonies in front of the assembly budget subcommittee about what it takes to make sure that the California’s coasts are accessible to all people. Justine Courtenay-Huang, a 15 year old youth Rising Leader, gave her own testimony as well. She shared, “the thing about access is that you don’t know what you’re missing until you experience it” – and how she experienced access through Brown Girl Surf. Ginger Cuevas, our volunteer surf instructor (also known as hip-hop artist Art3mis Prime), gave a testimony on how the ocean is a healing place for our community. In the afternoon, Mira, Justine, and Ginger went into legislators’ offices and spoke to staff members about equitable access to the outdoors, as well as environmental conservation. On the ride home, the team reflected on how powerful we felt discovering our voices and having them heard to make positive change in the world.
Another exciting Women’s History Month event occurred on March 26! Brown Girl Surf received honors at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting. The Board commended Brown Girl Surf for “providing girls and women of color with an opportunity to access surfing, learn how to appreciate nature, protect our environment, and provide a community that is inclusive to their families and volunteers.”
In late February, we received an email from the Golden State Warriors asking if Brown Girl Surf wanted to participate in an all-girls basketball clinic led by Steph Curry. Our responses were: 1) YES. 2) Is this real? Sure enough, 2 weeks later we were playing basketball with Steph at the newly refurbished basketball court in the West Contra Costa Salesian Boys and Girls Club! It turns out the Warriors and Brown Girl Surf had a lot in common – joy, community, gratitude, and success through hard work! We had so much fun. Huge thanks to the GSW Foundation, Chase, Good Tidings Foundation, and Steph Curry for making this happen! This was part of their Women’s Empowerment Month celebrations. More photos are available here.
We surf, tidepool and exercise our mission of gratitude for the gifts of nature!
On January 20th, Brown Girl Surf youth leaders, volunteers, and their friends and family had the opportunity to join the CA Center for Natural History on a tidepool excursion at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay. Sea stars, anemones, crabs and sea urchins were in abundance! We got to explore their unique coastal ecosystems, learn about new species, and the environmental conservation efforts in place to protect these small coastal residents. From the unparalleled guidance of tidepool enthusiast Constance, our love for the ocean has only grown!
A special thanks to Constance Taylor and her team from the CA Center for Natural History. Visit their website for future events! https://calnature.org/
On December 1, we held our last official event of the year: our Year End Celebration and Benefit, at the Impact Hub in downtown Oakland. This was the biggest turnout we have ever had, with over 150 attendees!
Highlights included the Rising Leader speeches and Marlim Reynosa’s inspiring performance of Afro-Dominican music and dance. Brown Girl Surf volunteer and hip hop artist Art3mis Prime captivated the audience with her incredible hip hop set–which ended with a dance party on the stage, including youth leaders, volunteers, their parents, and members of the community! Special thanks to our event sponsor Sanuk, as well as our numerous in-kind sponsor and community partners who provided awesome prizes for the raffle and silent auction. As always, Little Chihuahua and Homeroom provided us with delicious food!
2018 was a breakout year for Brown Girl Surf. We had a total of 140 unique participants (216 including repeats) and 40 volunteers! We held 21 Community Surf Sister Days, 5 beach - based leadership building days, 3 land-based celebrations, 2 beach-based volunteer appreciations, 2 environmental stewardship projects, a film screening, a civic engagement workshop, and more!
Thank you to our community, supporters, and amazing volunteers for an incredible year!
Our Fall Surf Sister Saturdays were full of stoke!
On the first Surf Sister Saturday, on Oct. 6, we had a 9 year old participant from LA, who had dreamed of surfing ever since she was 4 years old! She couldn’t wait to get on the board and had the biggest smile while surfing!
October 13 was also the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival! Thanks to everyone’s team efforts, the bumper to bumper traffic to the beach did not keep us out of the water for too long. But we won’t be scheduling on this day again!
On Oct. 27, we held a Halloween-themed Surf Sister Saturday. Professional big-wave surfer Bianca Valenti, who happened to be in town for the Mavericks Opening Ceremony, joined us and led our stretching exercises.
Nov. 3 gave way to a spontaneous impromptu photoshoot (thanks to BGS volunteer photographer Michaela Vatcheva) with many first time participants! Check them out on our instagram here.
Thank you all for an amazing season!
Last weekend our community members came out in full force to clean up our local water ways in the Jack London Square estuary. In partnership with California Canoe and Kayak and Oakland Parks and Rec, we paddled out (in boats this time) and cleared over 10 bags of trash from the shoreline. It’s important for us to cultivate a sense of environmental stewardship (as well as rad surf skills) at Brown Girl Surf, and our bi-annual cleanups are just one way we show this.
On Sept. 8, Brown Girl Surf co-hosted our first Civics is Sexy workshop, along with Surfrider Foundation and Levi Strauss & Co. In this free, all-day workshop, participants were able to break down the barriers of civic engagement by learning how to create change around issues they care about. We heard from inspirational speakers, learned how to make phone calls to local representatives (it’s really easy!) and how to prepare written and oral testimonies.
Although public speaking can be uncomfortable, we provided a safe space where everyone is accepted for who they are and valued for their own unique contributions. As a result, every single participant crafted their own testimony on an issue they specifically cared about, and was able to practice delivering it in front of real commissioners. The commissioners gave individualized feed back for each participant - both in terms of content and delivery. Through the workshop and the amazing participation, attendees are now prepared to put their newly developed skills into practice!
Huge thanks to Jamila Hubbard (Levis employee and a current Brown Girl Surf volunteer), Jennifer Savage (Surfrider), and the Change the World grant at Levi Strauss & Co. for making this event possible!
We held 4 sessions of Youth Summer Camp. Thanks to your support, we were able to offer the 3-day sessions, including transportation, all equipment, and lunch, starting at just $15 per week. 26 girls, 17 volunteers, and 4 youth leaders joined us to total 824 hours of participation! It was amazing to see girls who have never surfed before developing into confident water women through the 3-day camp. We also talked about the indigenous origin of surfing, held mini-lessons on ocean science, had dance parties, and played a jump rope game using a 12 ft strand of bull kelp! At the end of our last summer camp session, a 12-year-old participant from Oakland shared her feelings during the closing circle. “I’m grateful for Brown Girl Surf and how safe you make it feel here. Lots of places say they are safe spaces but don’t actually feel safe. This one does, so thank you.”
Some of our volunteers enjoyed a weekend away to neighboring surf town Santa Cruz. The weather was warm, and we had a blast celebrating the successful completion of a spring season while welcoming the summer!
Our Spring Surf season opened with cold water and sunny skies. We had participants visit us from Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, and even from as far as Cleveland, Ohio! Be sure to check out our media feature in The Root, with videography from our friend and award winning filmmaker Sachi Cunningham.
Brown Girl Surf volunteers and staff had a big presence at the 3rd Annual Institute for Women’s Surfers at the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University this October. Brown Girl surf sat on the steering committee of the conference, spearheaded by surf scholar Dr. Krista Comer, and over 8 current and former BGS Staff and volunteers joined a group of 30 women gathered from around the world to present their work and discuss issues of access to the ocean. We were proud to represent the BGS family and hosted a “Speak Out” where our volunteers shared some powerful stories about what it means to be a woman of color in the ocean. Others present were scholars, writers, and scientists from places as far as Wales and Australia. We were also joined by local friends big wave surfer Bianca Valenti, film maker Dayla Soul, journalist and big wave surf photographer Sachi Cunningham, Rhonda Harper of Black Girls Surf, and our friends at City Surf Project and the Wahine Project. It was an inspiring, energizing, and empowering weekend where women of the surf world got to join together, share stories, and uplift and encourage each other’s voices.
After the meeting, Brown Girl Surf volunteers who attended the IWS met to discuss how they could further the Brown Girl Surf movement via passion projects, inspired by the work of their fellow surf-feminist activists. Keep an eye out for upcoming Brown Girl surf volunteer-led projects promote civic engagement, and use various media arts to explore women’s surf stories and share our surf culture.
Our fall season made a big splash in the surf community, serving over 75 women and girls. After a large turn out at our Creek to Bay Day Cleanup event, everyone was ready to get back in the water, BGS community members new and returning. We were stoked to have our new lead surf instructor Marley guiding our girls in and out of the water on these exciting mornings. Also this season, we were featured in The Fader, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Surfer magazine! Our fearless leader Mira was also awarded the ESPN Everyday Hero award, along with two other enterprising women empowering girls through sports.
One of our guiding principles at Brown Girl Surf is "Respect and Love for the Land and Sea." So this past Saturday, for Oakland's Creek to Bay Day, our Brown Girl Surf community put together a waterborne kayaking team of Trash Warriors to collect trash from hard-to-reach places along the Oakland estuary. By removing trash like plastic and styrofoam from the water's edge, we prevent it from flowing into the Bay, and eventually the ocean, where plastic pollution is harming the entire marine food chain. We were supported in our work by the City of Oakland Dept of Environmental Services, and our awesome friends at California Canoe and Kayak Co, who lent us watercraft for the day, and taught us the basics of paddling and safety.
Last April, on Earth Day, we also got together as a community in partnership with the Oakland Museum of California, to care for Channel Park, at the base of Lake Merritt. We had a super fun time, removing invasive species from the water's edge to make room for local plants which support local wildlife, picking up trash, and helping in the community garden. We learned about the connections between the estuary and the ocean, including the fact that some of the animals that live near our surf spot in Half Moon bay, like bat rays, also live in Lake Merritt!
Our Spring Crew is a team of brave and fun-loving girls who have made a special commitment to learning to surf and connecting to the ocean. We meet 6 Saturdays in the Spring to have fun at the beach, while we work on our surf skills and ocean knowledge, bond as a team, and take care of the earth. Some of our girls also train to be Junior Coaches. We are thrilled that five of nine Spring Crew members are returning for their second season after doing Fall Crew. This Spring, our girls have been extra hardcore, braving some bad weather and extra cold seas, and proving what it means to be NorCal surfers!
On April 16, we had our first Community Surf SIster Saturday of 2016! Community Surf Sister Saturdays happen once a month in the Spring and Fall, as long as the wave conditions are suitable. This Community day, we had a great turn out with lots of first time ever surfers and many new volunteers joining our family! Pro surfer and girl power activity Kelly Potts was a special guest instructor, all the way from Maui! Brown Girl Surf junior coaches from our teen Spring Crew helped teach our participants how to surf, and even graced us with an original Brown Girl Surf tune on the ukelele. ome join us for our next Brown Girl Surf Community Surf Sister Saturday, May 21. Spots are filling up fast! Wetsuits and boards are provided. We meet at Half Moon Bay. For more information, contact email@example.com