Surfing with Wave Wahines

Yvette from Wave Wahines talks about how she create a group aimed at getting girls in the water to surf, sup, swim and socialize in an open, fun and safe environment!
A great example that learning how to surf should be fun!
  • When and where did you start surfing?
I had my first surf lesson aged 30. I had this crazy list of things I wanted to do before the end of my 30th year and surfing was one of them. I was awful then and I’m still trying to be less awful.  The main thing for me is the fun I have falling off, and watching others get better and enjoy it.
  • What's your background?

I am a personal trainer and have been in the fitness industry for the past 15 or so years. Coaching and helping people set and reach goals brings me such a sense of joy, regardless of the goal. I am also mother to 3 wonderful daughters.

  • When did you get more serious and involved in surfing and want to create an organization?

Well, that’s the big question. It actually happened by accident on my part. My eldest daughter (12 at the time) expressed an interest in surfing more frequently but I was not in a financial position to pay for private or even group lessons at £35-£50 a time. We looked at local surf clubs but there was such a large contingent of her male peers that it made her less keen. As a trainer, I had always understood the value and importance of sport but am very aware mnmmd Wave Wahines was born.

  • How did you come up with the idea to start a nonprofit organization to empower girls with surfing?

I knew other parents and carers must be in the same position as me, not being a surfer but having a daughter who would like to learn in a non-competitive and fun environment. I always wonder if it wasn’t for my daughter would surfing be the sport I had fallen into? Who knows, but I am so grateful it is and I am so passionate about providing access to sport for women and girls that I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

  • Where is it located?

We are based in Croyde, North Devon, UK

  • What's the age range in the Wave Wahines group?

It began in 2016 for ages 8-16 years, to combat girls who fall out of mainstream sports and school organized sports for many reasons. We then received so many requests for a club for grown ups, in particular the over 30s that we started a group in 2019 and haven’t looked back! We now offer sessions for ages 18 + with no upper limit, over 30s and of course our girls group.

  • Why is it important for you that it was for girls only?

I think it’s super important when you look at the research already conducted into how women and girls learn, engage and feel within a group environment. Keeping it a female environment has opened up so many important conversations and also created a real community feel that many have confirmed would not have grown had the club been set up in another way.

  • How is it different learning to surf within a group of females only?

I think it’s just the community it really affects, it creates really lovely bonds and fun within the group. There is always the desire to watch others succeed and the constant sound of whoops and cheers.

  • What's your best moment, memory you had with Waves Wahines? 

Oh my goodness, there are so many amazing moments I couldn’t possibly pick one. Having parents tell me how much of a positive impact we have had on their daughters self confidence is always such a moving one for me, as I always hope this confidence I see in the waves is carried through to their everyday lives. I have had women disclose the importance of the club for helping with depression and that really resonates with myself who has seen the club help with post natal depression. I’m so lucky to have this community that is ever growing.

  • With the Covid, is it your biggest challenge with Wave Wahines?

It has been a tough year for anything sporting hasn’t it! Staying connected has been tough but we have managed to stay connected via our social media, Zoom get togethers and I sometimes bump into our members whilst out and about locally.

  • What are your future plans for Wave Wahines?

We are back in the water at the end of March so really excited about that. This year we are launching our ‘Teeny Wahines’, a club for girls aged 6-8 years. We are also starting a progressive group training with video analysis and coached by former GB champ, Karma Worthington.

Wave Wahines has been lucky enough to benefit from Sport England funding to run a ‘Diversity in Surfing’ program to help address the lack of diversity in the sport. As a woman of colour myself, this is really important to me. We are also working with local women’s refuge to begin programs for women and children surviving domestic violence. We are currently looking at funding streams for this initiative as we have seen such a distressing increase in gendered violence over lockdown and we want to do something positive to help inject some light into what has been a very dark period.

  • What's your advice for other women who are just starting surfing?

Enjoy it and don’t measure yourself against anything other than how much fun you’re having and how good you feel. Have a look and see if there is a local club you can get involved with (it doesn’t have to be just women, that’s up to the individual)

  • Your favorite surf spot?

It has to be Croyde, where we run from, closely followed by Saunton

  • If you had the opportunity to go on a surf trip, where would it be and why?

Sri Lanka for sure. A friend of mine helped co found the Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club and I would love to visit this club and share the water with them.

Thanks for your time Yvette, we wish you best of luck!