Sri Lanka Women’s Surf Club

watura womens surf club sri lanka

 {Published on The Inertia) “Have you ever seen a local Sri Lankan female surfer?” I asked my friend, Ama, who rents surfboards from a tiny bamboo shack on Weligama beach.  “No, never,”  he replied.  “Why not?”  I asked.  “The men are scared something will happen to their daughters so the women never learn.” 

web-0590For nearly two weeks, I was on a mission to find a Sri Lankan surfer girI. I asked over twenty local surfers if they have ever seen a local female surfing.  The response was always the same. 

No.  Never seen one.  I don’t know of any.  Apparently, there are none. 

We live in a world where women have done it all, nearly.  We are leaders of nations.  We fly through space, lead expeditions to the world’s tallest peaks and to the bottoms of  the oceans.  There is no doubt about it, we are powerful, amazing creatures.

Sri lanka local womens surf clubBut here, in this one particular part of the world, I can not find one local woman who surfs. In fact, I rarely see local women merely playing in the ocean, just swimming and splashing. On this stunningly beautiful tear-drop shaped island, what I have found is that women rarely interact with the ocean. I have been told it is a cultural taboo, but times are changing.  

watura womens surf club sri lanka After nearly a year living in Sri Lanka, I fell head over heels in love with the country. The food, the beaches, the culture and the people are all wonderful. The people I met were all lovely, but nearly all were men. During my time here I craved the comfort and connection of other women. Perhaps that is why I found myself frequenting establishments run by women, such as Mama’s Rice and Curry Shop in Midigama and Number One Rotti in Mirissa.   

watura womens surf clubweb-0531

A few months ago Lucy Kirkland, a huge-hearted surfer from the UK who selflessly works for the Rosie May Foundation here in Sri Lanka, reached out to me and told me about her dream.  She told me she “wanted a Sri Lankan based supporter who emulated women having fun in the water and having a sense of freedom which is what I think Santosha Society is about.” She was right and I am honored to be apart of this amazing  project.

Lucy dreamt of taking the women she has been working with to the ocean for the day whether to surf, swim or merely just to appreciate.  The Rosie May Foundation is a non-profit organization aimed to empower women all over the world.  In Sri Lanka they run Project Hope, encouraging single mothers to develop businesses where they can work from home, giving them financial support and independence. A few of the women who joined the surf day also came from the sewing room run by the Manacare Foundation in Telwatta.  Excited to have a day in the water,  just like that the Watura Women’s Surf Club was born.

With an aim to put a smile on the faces of these hardworking women and their children, Lucy’s dream is now a reality. Lucky for me, the stars aligned and I happened to be in Sri Lanka to experience one of these surf days myself.  It was nothing short of amazing, magical, inspirational and long awaited.web-1359As the group of 12 women and children left the bus and walked up the beach, excitement filled the salty air.  The women changed into leggings and t-shirts that Lucy thoughtfully brought for them to swim in.  In the beginning they were extremely shy and it was easy to see they were anxious and scared, but before long each and every one of them walked out into the ocean and began to experience its bewildering effects. 

watura womens surf club

In the beginning, the women and children walked to their ankles, then their knees.  Inch by inch the water levels rose on their bodies just as their confidence levels rose in their hearts.  They became more comfortable in the shallow waters and less fearful of the gentle white waves washing past them.  Surprisingly, by the end of the day, every single one of them had taken a turn at riding a surfboard.  The kind folks at Ahikava Surf School at Dewitt Beach near Galle generously donated foam surfboards for us to use for the day.  They too believed in the mission to get these women up and riding.  

local womens surf club    Adventurous little girls and toothless grannies took turns catching the first waves of their lives.  There was one little girl in particular who would not quit.  She must have caught nearly 100 waves that day.  She was the first one in the water and the last one out.  

You can only imagine the enormous smiles and loud laughter that day.  These women had a blast!  It is hard to say who enjoyed it more really, them or me!  At the end of the day I can assure you my cheeks hurt and my heart was full. It is a day I will remember for as long as I live, and I know these women feel the same.

 

web-0554This is a project that deserves support. It not only empowers women, but it makes them smile, laugh, and for a brief moment twice a month, the saltwater washes away their stresses and heals all their day to day worries.  It makes the old feel young and the young feel free. 

The thing is, there are a lot more women in Sri Lanka.  This project will grow, because it is amazing.  Word will spread and more women will want to come and join.  More women will want to experience the ocean just as these 12 did this day.

This project is just getting on its feet.  That is why we are asking for your support.   A little generosity really does go a long way, especially in this case.  Just $2 will rent a surfboard to be used for the day, $5 will buy a swimming outfit for the ladies to use that is culturally acceptable, and $25 will pay for the entire bus to transport a group of women from their village to the ocean.  Every dollar helps.  Every dollar buys not only the items needed for this project to succeed, but it buys smiles, laughter, confidence, and perhaps it will help one small girl become the surfer she dreams to be.

Thank you for your time and any contributions you are able to make.

web-0469

How to help:

Instant karma:www.justgiving.com/kirkswaterwomen

Instagram: @wwscsrialanka

This would not have been possible without lots of love and support from the following:

A generous thank you to Stuart Smythe (Instagram:  @stuartsmythe ) for capturing this day with video and photos
Ahikava Surf School (Instagram: @ahikava_surfschool) for the surfboard rentals
Rosie May Foundation ( Instagram: @rosiemayfoundation website: www.rosie-may.com)
Santosha Society (Instagram: @santosha_society)
Lucy Kirks, the fearless leader of it all (Instagram:  @lucykirks)