A Nazaré winter fairytale

Girl standing at the beach smiling.

Hannah Dürr tells us about her winter stay in Nazaré: Capturing Big Wave Riding through Photography and filmmaking.

Waves Within: A novel of empowerment in Bali

Women surfing on a wave in the ocean

Written by @inga_maria_panten Cover Image: Inga surfing by Shannon It started with a moment of frustration while surfing. I was with some girlfriends in the southeast of Bali, at my favorite spot at the time. A few years later, the Ritz Carlton was going to destroy the original wave to create a swimming cove, but that’s another story. It was crowded in the water and once again I didn’t get as many waves as I had hoped for. Hello, expectations! Then came the final moment; the straw that broke the camel’s back. I could no longer pull myself together and let out a loud sigh of exasperation, hitting the water with my hand so hard it splashed. At that moment I knew that something was very wrong. Then my friend Anna paddled up to me and said with a serious look: “Inga, when you’re like this, it’s really no fun surfing with you.” She is usually the kindest and most smiley surfer out there. Her words hit me like a slap in the face and dejectedly I paddled back to the beach. What had just happened? Arriving at the beach, I dropped my board onto the sand and sank down next to it. I was on the verge of tears, enraged by my helplessness because I didn’t understand what was going on within me. All I knew was that I didn’t want to go on like this. Surfing was my refuge and my playground where I could laugh and be myself, have fun with my friends. What had gone wrong here? I didn’t recognize myself, so I grabbed a pen and paper and started writing. For a few months I had been taking occasional notes in a small pink notebook after surfing. How the waves were, what I had experienced and learned. At the beginning I “only” wanted to create a guide about the waves, so I knew which surf spot worked best in which conditions. Those notes eventually turned into so much more than I could have imagined. When I talked to my girlfriends about the fact that I had started journaling about my surfing experiences, it turned out that they felt the same way. They too were frustrated, had fears in the water and days when nothing seemed to work at all. The more we talked about it, the more I felt I needed to compile all of the insights in one place, in order to ease the journey of other female surfers. So I created a new file on my laptop called “The Surfgirl Guide.” Over the years, I didn’t really take the project seriously. I was busy working on my previous blog “German Mermaid Diary” and only journaled every now and then when I needed to blow off steam after surfing or had experienced something special in the ocean. It took until 2022 that I finally had the courage to take the book project seriously. I wrote to my editor friend Sandra to ask if she would take a look at the manuscript, because after all those years I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. She was glad to read it, her feedback was enthusiastic and she advised me to contact Whispering Voice Publishing, with whom she had also worked before. At first, I didn’t have the courage. I had heard how hard it was to find a literary agent as a new author, let alone approach a publisher directly with a manuscript (a no-go in the literary scene). But so many years had passed in which I had only let the book gather dust in the drawer. I decided that I finally had to do something about it instead of just talking, and I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. The most difficult thing was to defeat my weaker self, to overcome my self-doubts. Would anyone even be interested in the book? There was no more room for these kinds of thoughts now. I wrote to the publisher and a few days later I had the first call with the co-founder, Vera. There was an immediate familiarity, as if we had known each other for years. And best of all, she was interested in my manuscript! I could hardly believe my luck. Paradoxically, my self-doubts were more intense than ever, but I faced them. Fast forward one year, the publishing contract is signed and the book is on its way. We already have a great illustrator, too, the wonderfully talented Alexandra Siebert. I love her fun, playful and simultaneously fierce and empowering images of female surfers. They suit the book perfectly. But wait, what is the novel actually about? It is about the waves in us; commonalities that move us as ‘spiritual beings having a human experience’ (in the words of philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin). It’s about my journey through 16 years of surfing and how I am learning to surrender and play, a little more each day. About the author: Inga started surfing in 2007 in Moliets, on the French Atlantic coast. Later on, she lived in Australia for two years. In 2014, she moved to Bali where she has been building her life by the ocean and writes articles for magazines, as a freelance writer. Inga is self-employed and also offers workshops in creative writing. In her free time, she loves to walk her dogs and attend poetry slams/ open stage events (@voices_unleashed_), where she recites her poetry and sometimes volunteers as a host. For updates, follow Inga and the book’s journey at @inga_maria_panten

Zealous review|Bikinis that didn’t bail on me

A women in a surf bikini walking with a surf board.

Let’s cut to the chase. My first bikini surfing experience wasn’t great. One bigger wave came, washed me and the bikini top was gone. I needed time to trust bikinis in the surf again. Seven years ago, in Germany, I stumbled upon Zealous at a surf and skate market. I was a beginner, prepping for an Indo trip, and needed a bikini that wouldn’t bail on me. Zealous delivered, and that bikini became my reliable companion in warm waters. It wasn’t just about style; it was about trust. Fast-forward to this year, and Zealous crossed my path again. I tried out two of their new surf bikini models while surfing various boards in various conditions in Southwest France. As a surfer, it can be difficult to find a bikini that stays in place while shredding and looks good at the same time. Summer surf in France The Atlantic Ocean in France is a bit of a surprise bag – you never know what you’ll get. From mellow waves to sketchy shore breaks, everything can happen. The first bikini I tested was the mermaizing top with the cheeky bottoms. I put it on at a small day cruising along the beach on a mid-length. While paddling, nothing moved. The top stayed in place and I didn’t need to pull the bottoms back to the right place switching from sitting to lying on the board. The next session tested the staying-in-place on a next level, while trying to smoothly get out of the ocean at high tide in Seignosse. And of course it went a bit wrong, I went through a little washing machine and tada, no free nipples or gone bikini bottoms. Everything was still there just a bit sandy. The second surf bikini, with the dawn patrol top and melrose bottoms, was my feel good companion this summer. Its vibrant honey glow color lifted my spirits, and it felt fantastic to surf in. And the bikini top with a cross back also made a great performance as a yoga top while practicing under the iconic French pine trees. Zealous Bikinis Review: Surfing Companions for Confidence and Comfort Would I recommend the surf bikinis? Hell yeah. The one I bought in 2016 still looks great, I just outgrew it. Many other bikinis met their demise along the way, ravaged by saltwater. Let’s start at the core of the bikinis, the fabric. When you hold it, it feels soft yet reliable. The bikini bottoms have a band that you can tie, providing a sense of security that they won’t abandon you and float away into the ocean. Also, the coverage is nice. The models look great, but don’t have any awkwardness. Moving up to the top, the reliableness stays and some details come in. The mermaizing model has a beautiful tie back, which is sown together in the middle, so it holds the boobs in place. The dawn patrol model has a crossed back, which makes it nicely fitting and sporty. Besides the functionality, the look is great and the values of Zealous too. The story of Zealous  Zealous is a female-owned company. The founder, Marie, studied Textile Engineering in Hamburg and fell in love with Bali while studying for  a semester there. Marie then started creating something surfing women were longing for – reliable surf bikinis and surf-inspired clothing. The bikinis are manufactured in Bali, where Marie makes sure that the workers earn enough and she can support local family businesses. And at the same time, making the products more sustainable. 75% of our apparel collections are made from sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, and many products are made containing recycled polyester or nylon. Zealous also stands for size inclusivity and offers a wide range for all different body shapes. They support women with gear to enjoy surfing, and that’s what I also experienced. The bikinis are great for surfing and allow you to have a great time in the water, focusing on the joy and adventure.

Two weeks, thirty girls and twenty boards

Girls in wetsuits hugging each other. Girls Surfcamp.

Surfing can be a wonderful tool for personal growth. The Social Surf Club e.V. from Hamburg is a non-profit initiative that offers children, young people and adults a platform for self-discovery and healing through surfing and nature. Kim Naemi Birtel, one of the long-time members, gives insights into the Girls Surf Camp and interviews one of the girls who took part in the trip. Words by Kim Naemi Birtel Since I can remember, I have been in love with the ocean. And since I was five, I have been standing on a surfboard. Wherever I am, if the ocean is close, I feel at home. Now I am not five anymore, and I have gone on surf trips all around the world. And wherever I am, there is one thing that is always the same. My heart almost explodes if I can even spot one woman in the line-up. A line-up with only women has only been a dream of mine, until in spring 2022 The Social Surf Club and the surf-bikini brand MyMarnini partnered up to make that dream come true during the summer of 2022, with The Social Surf Club’s first-ever Girls-Surfcamp. This year, our Girls Only Camp went into its second round. We took off in Hamburg with a diverse group of fifteen girls from different difficult living situations and eleven women. And arrived at Denmark’s north shore ready for two unforgettable weeks of dancing, surfing, feminism and love. I talked to Jassi (Jasmeet) about her time at our Girls Camp. Hi, could you quickly introduce yourself? I am Jassi (Jasmeet), I’m from Hamburg, Germany, I am fifteen and like to play basketball. How did you hear about us (The Social Surf Club)? Some friends and family told me about the project. How did you feel about the trip beforehand? I was a little bit nervous and uneasy at the thought of so many girls in one place. I thought there might be a lot of drama. Could you describe a typical day here for me? Our day starts by getting woken up around nine. Then we all eat breakfast together, it’s really good. Afterwards, we get told what will happen after breakfast. Usually, we will then have our morning round, and we start with a little meditation. And a little check-up round of how everyone is doing today. We will then discuss our plan for the day. Then we pack everything up and go to the beach and go surfing together. Usually, we have some kind of evening program as well. One time, for example, we did an evening on the topic “Body” and shared past negative experiences with each other. That was really emotional, but I also felt really safe sharing my stories. That’s why I really liked it. What was your most memorable moment here? My most beautiful moment was on the Bulbjerg (A steep cliff on the Danish coastline). We were there during a storm and it was so windy that you could let yourself fall in the wind. That was beautiful, I had no thoughts running through my head and was just smiling, forgetting about all my problems and my family. What is different here from home? The difference is that the adults here don’t act like supervisors, but more like friends that you can have fun with. What is your favourite activity here? Surfing because it’s fun to learn. What do you like about surfing? That you are in the water just having a good time. Even if you’re not having a good surf, everyone will cheer for you. That’s really motivating. Do you think surfing is a boys-sport? No, it just feels so safe and comfortable to go surfing with just girls in the water. Did you learn something during the past two weeks? On my first day, I could not even sit on my board now I’m almost able to stand up. And I learned to be more open with my emotions and that there are people that want to listen to me. And that you should be mindful of your surroundings. Would you like to do this again in the future? Definitely. Would you recommend this trip to other girls? Yes, it is an amazing experience to spend two weeks with only other girls, and you will learn a lot about yourself. Not only did we ask Jassi about her time here, but also gave everyone else the chance to share their thoughts. We asked them what they learned about themselves. One girl said that she could do more than she thought she could, another one stated that she now knows that she likes hugs, and plenty of other girls said that they learned that they are good the way they are. These answers are the reason why we are doing this. This is what surfing is about. About unity, love and hugs. If you want to learn more about us and our next Girls-Surfcamp get in contact with us over Instagram: @socialsurfclub.

Why choose Yulex over petroleum-based Neoprene wetsuits

Two women holding longboards and wearing yulex wetsuits.

Wetsuits have been around for ages, keeping us surfers warm and cozy in the water. With the surfing industry booming since the ’90s, wetsuits have evolved, now coming in various sizes and thicknesses. Today’s value of the wetsuit industry is around $2 Billion USD. Most of these wetsuits are made of synthetic rubber called neoprene. It is a petroleum-based material, which also has the commercial name chloroprene. Though this material has been the go-to since its development by DuPont in the 1930s, the surf community was largely unaware of its harmful and toxic nature for quite some time. However, Patagonia started to bring some light into the darkness in 2008 when they introduced the first Yulex wetsuit made from a natural rubber sourced from the Guayule plant. It proved to be a more sustainable alternative to the conventional neoprene wetsuits that most were accustomed to. The revelation continued when Lewis Arnold and Chris Nelson started their documentary ‘‘The Big Sea’’ bringing more information about the harmful effects of neoprene to light. Header: Credit: Aentonia | Zoé and Lili wearing an Ecoalf x Deeply Yulex summer wetsuit. The Toxic Truth of Neoprene The film takes us to the Denka factory, a Japanese owned chemical company in Louisiana. It is the only chloroprene plant in the US. Why it’s so problematic is that there is no home in the predominantly black community without having been touched by cancer. The U.S. Government Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges the high cancer risks of chloroprene, thus the majority of wetsuits sold today are made out of chloroprene from the plant in the Cancer Alley.  Denka owns a second company in Japan, where Limestone chloroprene wetsuits are made by melting Limestone in an electric furnace. It’s not a petroleum based material, but the process to mine, crush and melt the Limestone requires a huge amount of energy. So, environmentally speaking, it’s not much better. Also, there is no data or public records that are kept about the chloroprene emissions in the second plant according to The Big Sea findings. Since the toxic truth of chloroprene is becoming more evident, more and more companies are aiming to bring more sustainable wetsuits to the market. Are Yulex wetsuits an alternative?  Surfers are very picky when it comes to material. The wetsuit should be flexible, tight but not too and perform in its dedicated water temperature. These characteristic traits of surfers make it quite hard to introduce a new technology that might not directly have the same performance aspects. Yulex wetsuits have been around for a while now, gaining more and more trust and credit for a great performance. Yulex is a natural plant-based material that can replace neoprene. Today, the rubber for wetsuits is sourced from the Havea rubber tree from different plantations from Sri Lanka to Guatemala. The trees produce natural rubber for 20 to 30 years, absorbing some carbon in their lifespan as well. Since 2016, Patagonia went completely neoprene free, making all their wetsuit-based products with natural rubber. To make the more sustainable Yulex material widely available, they decided to open up the material for the wetsuit market. Since then, many other brands such as Ecoalf with Deeply, Finisterre, Billabong and SRFACE started selling all-natural rubber wetsuits. Yulex wetsuits offer several key sustainability advantages over traditional neoprene wetsuits, which make them a more environmentally responsible choice. Switching to Yulex reduces the CO₂ emissions from one wetsuit by up to 80% (Patagonia). The primary difference between Havea wetsuits and neoprene wetsuits lies in the material source. Neoprene is derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource that requires energy-intensive processes to extract and refine. The Havea trees can be sustainably harvested for their rubber, providing a more eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based neoprene. The rubber used in Yulex wetsuits comes from responsibly managed plantations, ensuring sustainable harvesting practices that protect biodiversity and local ecosystems. In contrast, the extraction and refining of petroleum for neoprene wetsuits often lead to environmental degradation and habitat destruction. And as the Big Sea documentary will show, the production of neoprene involves the use of certain toxic chemicals, including chloroprene. These chemicals can have harmful effects on human health and the environment. Yulex wetsuits, being derived from natural rubber, do not require the use of such hazardous chemicals, making them a safer option for both consumers and the planet. We as surfers have an impact on where we hand our money. We can make an informed choice. Not everything is as black and white and natural rubber can not be the singular solution over a long time. We need to diversify sustainable choices.      

Back on the Board | A journey out of fear and regaining trust in the sea

We have all experienced that heart-pounding moment when a huge wave sweeps us along in the ocean’s washing machine, leaving us both breathless and electrified with a mixture of adrenaline and fear pumping through our veins. Sandra Winkelmann told us her personal story – how she regained her trust in the sea after a deeply traumatic encounter. It is a story that reflects the deep emotions of surfers and water lovers, a reminder of the ocean’s captivating allure and its ability to both empower and humble us. Back on the board by Sandra Winkelmann Starting at the beginning would be too far back. I start in the dark of the wave. Inside the turning tumbler that washes a mixture of sand and water into your nostrils while circling you like a teacup ride at Disney World. Your leash pulls your leg out of your hip socket, and your arms  fight a useless battle against the power of the wave. Sounds like fun, right? Imagine running out of air, and your ear  starts to beep at a high pitch, in sync with your rising  panic. Traumatizing, more like.  Moments ago, it was all fun and laughter, and now you are being dragged through a horror show without air. The split second you struggle to get your head out of the water, a new  wave crashes on you, and you’re in for a second and third ride. You fight, while feeling your strength fading. But somehow I made it, onto the board and to shore, beaten and broken.   A valley called fear This is where I start. At the bottom of the valley called fear. A fear that holds you back from getting out or staying in the white water because it’s so much safer. And when you take up the courage to paddle out, the first bigger set breaks you again, and you swim ashore crying and weeping. I loved surfing. I loved the time on the board. I loved the ocean, although I could not understand that it didn’t love me back, and instead chose to push me around. It took a while for me to realize that it was not the ocean, but me. I had to rethink, to rewire my brain, starting to gain trust in myself and fight my way back into the waves. I figured there would be only one option for me, and I turned back to the person who taught me to surf. He was not only my surf teacher but we had also become good friends over the years. With my scared little heart, I trusted that he would not let me down and, more importantly, pull me out of a heavy set. After discussing my plan, he suggested that he choose the days when we go out in the waves. This meant that we would have perfect conditions for my level of surfing, and the frustration would be moderate. Agreed! This allowed me to spend some days on the beach before getting in the waves. It gave me time to literally talk to  the ocean, say hello and show that I was happy to be back. I  could watch other surfers and study the waves and currents. It allowed me to feel a bit more prepared.  The first session On the morning of my first session with Adri, I sat down and  did a breathing exercise called box breath for 10 minutes.  My heart was pumping hard, and I felt it calmed down after a  few minutes. The endless replays of nasty wipeouts no longer  occupied my mind. After I was finished, I was calm and open  to whatever might come during this session. And no matter  how I performed, I would be OK with it. The breathing took  away all the pressure that I had placed on myself. For the  first time, I allowed myself the option of failure. I made a  deal with myself to simply try again without judging myself.  On the beach, we sat down on the cool morning sand. I felt  the sun warming the neoprene on my back. Adri showed me what  was going on out there, which wave we would ride, the channel we would take to get out easily and pointed out  where the current was. Best of all: the spot was empty!  Nobody in the water…awesome!  Before I went in, I did some pop-ups in the sand. A good  exercise to remind my legs and feet that this was not  snowboarding but surfing. It involves a different stance, after all. And then the moment of truth: I paused in front  of the sea, took a deep breath and told myself to face whatever comes and tackle this wretched fear. Adri remained with me, and cheesy as it sounds, he said the most important  words for me at that moment: “you’re with me,” “you’re going  to be alright,” “tell me whenever you don’t feel good.”  Those are magic words. I had to find the courage within myself, but having someone watching my back was the safety belt that I needed on this ride.  Regaining the joy And then we go in. I ride a white-water wave first, and  immediately and doggedly Adri decides that we should go further out. I have to let the white-water rides behind me. I follow him in the channel and out to face my demons.  And the ocean loves me. Adri helps me into my first waves,  and I ride them with a flush of warm fuzzy happiness rolling  over me. I feel the wave’s energy through the board in my  feet, with the waves pushing me, carrying me, and finally  losing power. Naturally I fall, but this time I come up laughing. Laughing about my nose dives and how goofy I plunge in. This nurtures my feeling of playing in the water and with the waves. It rises slowly but steadily, and I can have fun on the board again. Within these 90 minutes, the  waves I ride

Fifth Tide | Two friends tackling bigger waves together

Lena Kemna and Christina Gindl, two friends living in Portugal, have discovered a deep bond that transcends the shores they call home. Their passion for riding bigger waves unites them and led them on a journey of training and developing the mindset needed to be out there. What pushes them forward is not only their own motivation but also the support they find in their surfing sisterhood. Their new documentary Fifth Tide coming out this summer takes us on a 20-minute journey with the two women. Lena and Christina invite women everywhere to connect with each other and embark on a journey experiencing the beauty of nature together, immersing themselves in the water, and surfing bigger waves. We had a little chat with Lena and Christina about the upcoming documentary developed by their team Rico Stein, Antonio Saraiva and Luigi Rapanelli: How did you come up with the concept for Fifth Tide and what inspired you to make a documentary about the journey of two women tackling bigger waves? L: Because this is what our life is. As simple as that. This is what we live for, what we seek in the ocean and what we strive for in our lives. And it´s also what we live every day. Over time, we realised that it seems to be not so common, even within the surfing world. The type of waves we seek, and that we do it together. So we wanted to tell our story.  C: About a year ago, together with a local cinematographer, I was planning on doing a film project about my surf and life here in Portugal during the winter. I was part of a smaller surf documentary this past winter, but I’ve never released a film that shows exactly who I am and what I do. Lena was part of a documentary the year before as well, but has never released a film of her own either. And since we share our daily life, surf, adventure, training, struggles, highs, lows, and so much more, we decided to tackle this project together and make it an authentic film about our surfing, and our lives during the winter. What does sisterhood mean to you both? L: Do you know this feeling when you‘re a child and you just happen to have a friend? You never decided on it, you just run around your neighbourhood every day together. That´s how it is, sharing our grom years of surfing, just that we happen to be adults already.  C: It’s a bond that happened in a very natural way, without any effort, two lives and passions in our case just aligning 100%. For us, it means motivating and supporting each other, being there in the tough times, as well as in the flourishing ones. Honesty and truth in all our adventures, the past ones, and the upcoming. How has your friendship developed over time? Can you describe the moments or events that solidified your bond and transformed it into a sisterhood? L: I remember some moments paddling out together in rough seas, getting absolutely pounded. Or getting changed out of our wetsuits in the pouring rain with 40km/h winds. And laughing, screaming at each other about why we picked such a strange hobby. And I think besides that, we also carry the same values within us. We are both independent and yet value unconditional reliability. And we both strive for a lot. And it’s not like everything is always perfect, life and its hiccups also get in the way sometimes, but never to an extent that it matters.  C: In the beginning, we mostly met up for surfing. We stopped counting how many hours and sessions we had together. I guess through spending time in the water, no matter if the waves were good or not if it was sunny and warm or cold with stormy winds. We got really close probably because it went from doing our thing each of us alone, to effortlessly doing it together. What challenges did you face while filming in Portugal during the winter swell season? L: The limits of our bodies. The cold and rough sea takes a toll on you. Especially while you try to work at the same time, dividing yourself into so many roles. I also learned from that. Next winter I will prioritise surfing more, instead of spreading myself thin. I also think that even though we know it, we believe and live by it, we were both reminded that exactly this is what we want our lives to be. C: To be honest, we realised one winter season to film a 20min surf film and get all the clips and sessions we want to show, was an optimistic time frame for filming. Winter in Portugal can be equally perfect or unpredictably stormy. We didn’t have the best winter in terms of waves, that was a challenge for sure. What kind of emotional journey can viewers expect when they watch Fifth Tide? C: We’re hoping to inspire people to follow their path, no matter how hard it might be, or how many people will criticise along the way. How did you capture the struggle and joy that comes with tackling big waves? L: We just do it. Honestly, we made the decision that if the viewer, surfer or not, gets it, they get it. If not, they don‘t. We don‘t formulate a message or whatever so that someone gets moved in some way. We just tell our story. C: In many sessions, you’ll feel the power of nature, storms, and freezing temperatures during first-light sessions in Portuguese winter. There will be our best waves shown of course, but we will also show a fair share of wipeouts. Because this is the reality of our surfing. Can you tell us about the locations and settings in Fifth Tide? How did you choose these locations and what impact do they have on the overall story? L: We film our home, our everyday life.  C: We didn’t really choose the spots, for

Surfing as a tool for women’s empowerment

Frau mit Surfboard stehend an Land. Abendstimmung am Himmel.

“Femme Ocean is a documentary about women in surfing, where women from all backgrounds are invited to share their experiences and to discuss the power of sports impacting lives.” – Annika v. Schütz   How Annika’s journey started Text & Fotos by Annika von Schütz Since I was young, I loved to go out in nature and do risky adventures. It makes me feel alive. Surfing is exactly that kind of feeling that transmits me to feel myself. At the age of 18, we were driving from Germany to France in an old Volvo to travel across Europe and learn how to surf. We felt free, wild and living everything we wanted to. Curious to dive deeper in the sensation of finding waves and enjoying that special feeling of spontaneity and youth. More surf trips led us to Denmark, the Canary Islands, the sunshine coast of California, Sri Lanka and much more. Later, I had the impression that many girls are afraid of doing what they really love. Fear and shame is holding them back to be themselves and shine their true light. Too many people and especially girls are stuck in the limitations of the system we are living in. Media teaches us how we should look and that we should act like a girl. Non authentic role models and the focus on sexiness is a bad  influence for girls growing up to be a woman. It takes so much time and experience to free ourselves of all those patterns, mostly set by men and the industry with the aim of selling a lot of products. Many girls don’t feel good in their body and make themselves small in their mind. That is why I wanted to make a movie to wake them up and find their strength and beauty. Additionally, most men think that feminism is a topic for women. They are not aware of the fact that we are still living in a patriarchal world with a big pay gap. Personally, I struggled with men who first felt attracted to me, my free spirit and maybe my athletic body. Later they were afraid of a woman who does what she really wants. Being independent, traveling and getting attention can scare some of them away. I don’t want to say that all men act that way. All I want to mention is that it is sometimes hard to find the right man with the inner strength to be with a woman who speaks up. Why am I writing about that topic? Because all the experiences made me think of how to act as a woman nowadays and to integrate all the aspects in one film. To search for girls and women who we can identify with, inviting us to leave our comfort zone and do what we love. Luckily, there are more and more girls fighting for their rights and regarding the future of women in extreme sports, I’m quite optimistic. Surfing is a powerful tool to change our mindset. It makes us feel the energy of the ocean which we can take back to the land. Especially, by confronting ourselves with situations where we feel fear, it is good to use it as fuel and become stronger. The process of overcoming fear is very powerful. The research for the protagonists for “Femme Ocean” was interesting and I‘m so grateful to have found such inspiring women. That’s why I‘d like to share some of their quotations from the interviews with you. They accompany me in my surf session and in my daily life.   “My training comes a lot more from trying to connect my body with my mind.” – Joana Andrade, only female big wave surfer from Portugal   “I‘m not there to challenge the ocean. I‘m there to dance with the ocean.” – Teresa Ayala, first Portuguese surfer   “Surfing ended up being my big pillar for inner growth and self-knowledge.“ – Lizzy, artist and ocean activist   “If I put a dream in front of me, I‘m gonna fight for it.“– Maryam El Gardoum, 5 x Moroccan Champion   “I wish that all kids have an equal educational opportunity.“ – Devika Salomono, Founder of Sambol Foundation, the 1st women shelter in Sri Lanka   The Idea of making the documentary Femme Ocean Our relationship with the sea is a relationship of vitality. We take risks on the water. We trust in nature. We confront our fear and we begin to trust ourselves. We build that courage and take it with us back to the land, to our communities and beyond. Globally, women are an increasing part of the surfing community and surfing can be seen as a tool for women’s empowerment. So I went on a trip from Portugal to Sri Lanka to meet women who are making their own way.    What is the film about? Thanks to the greater power and ability in many fields, women surfing is growing fast. Female surfers are fighting for their dreams and see more and more results of equality. One example is the equal payment in surf contests since 2019. It is important to have strong and authentic women with perseverance for women to identify with. The documentary is about strong female portraits as role models. Together with an international professional crew, we created impactful stories of women following their passion of surfing and creating new paths for the next generation. Consequently, “Femme Ocean“ is a documentary about women in surfing, where women from all backgrounds are invited to share their experiences and to discuss the power of sports impacting lives.  Five portraits of international surfers demonstrate their waves of life in a very personal way. The stories open the doors to their personality and show what is hiding behind their sunshine facade. They are professional athletes and free surfers, stand for pioneers, environmental activism, independence and risk-taking. Diversity plays a key role here – in terms of age, social background, religion as well as different backgrounds and professions. One thing unites

Surfings Transgender Athlete Policy: supporting inclusion

transgender policy

Since the WSL has announced their transgender athlete policy end of February allowing transgender surfers to compete in the division of their gender identity a huge debate arose.  Credit: City of Gold Coast/Unsplash The transgender athlete policy  The ISA released the policy first in October 2022 and was later on adapted by the WSL. The policy allows transgender women to compete in the women’s division without requiring them to undergo gender confirmation surgery, and transgender men can compete in the men’s division. The decision was made after consultation with medical experts and advocates for transgender rights. Athletes who are assigned male at birth are required to maintain a testosterone level less than 5 nmol/L (nanomoles per liter) for 12 months previous to competing in a women’s event. Testosterone levels of assigned as women at birth range between 0.5 to 2.4 nmol/L.  Mixed reactions from the surfing community The policy has been met with mixed reactions. At the forefront of opposition to inclusion in professional surfing is Bethany Hamilton, who said in a statement on February 4 that she will not compete or support the World Surf League (WSL) if the new transgender policy is implemented. Some professional surfers share their concerns that the inclusion of transgender people could jeopardize the fairness of competition. Mainly because of the physical advantages that transgender women might have over cisgender women. Bethany Hamilton proposes to create a separate division for transgender athletes. Her last sentence in the statement reads, “It’s hard to imagine what the future of women’s surfing will look like in 15 to 20 years if we allow this major change.” Milestone for equality Regardless of the the debates, the new policy is a positive step towards inclusion and equality in professional surfing. It sends the message that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in the sport regardless of their gender identity.  Currently, there is one transgender athlete, Sasha Jane Lowers, who competes in longboarding in the women’s division. Why should she be excluded or placed in a different division?  If we want to work toward more equality, a person who identifies as a woman or a man should not be placed in a different category. Just imagine the psychological impact of undergoing a procedure such as hormone therapy to surf in the division with which you identify, and then being denied admission on the grounds of fairness.  To echo Bethany Hamilton’s statement. Yes, it’s hard to imagine what women’s surfing will look like in 20 years. And if you look back at the milestones of the last 40 years, a lot has been accomplished for more equality in surfing. But it shouldn’t stop there. Given feminism’s goals of ending sexism and oppression, we can’t stop now. Many groups like transgender and non-binary people still don’t have the same surplus and opportunities. And transphobia and feminism don’t work together. Beyond professional surfing  Looking at the surf community, a policy that is inclusive of transgender and non-binary people is important. It can send a positive signal for more inclusion in lineups around the world.  As Stab Magazine wrote, not only has WSL adapted the ISA guidelines, but so have 109 surfing associations from around the world. This means that the rule also affects children and teenagers in amateur competitions. So a 16-year-old transgender girl can compete in her national surf event (if the federation has applied the policy). And this is what Brendon Buckley of Stab says: “This affects thousands of surfers at all levels of surfing”. Conclusion and statement:  As with all new policies applied, over time they can evolve, taking into account experiences and opinions.  We stand for equality in surfing and therefore support transgender people in professional surfing. And we do so in the category that corresponds to their gender identity. In addition, we also support non-binary people in choosing their category. Articles to read:  Surfing transphobically: the ignorance of Bethany Hamilton Surfing’s Transgender Policy Goes Far Beyond The WSL World Surf League Releases Policy for Transgender Athletes, surfequity.org/equality-policy

Para Surfing on the way to the Paralympics

Johannes Laing-Para Surfing World Championships 2021

Surfing made its debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Sorry for the confusion, but Covid is known for turning things upside down a bit. With surfing’s inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the ISA is now promoting surfing’s inclusion in the 2028 Paralympics in Los Angeles. As the president of the ISA Fernando Aguerre emphasised: Surfing as the official sport of the state of California and the strong surf culture, appeal, and infrastructure in LA 2028, Para Surfing can offer amazing value and energy to the Paralympic programme. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) board recently confirmed that Para Surfing has demonstrated the competitiveness and integrity of the sport, as well as the strategic benefit to the Paralympic Games. This does not mean that Para Surfing is already confirmed in the program. However, the LA28 Committee is considering the impact that Para Surfing’s inclusion in the program could have. The final decision is expected to be made by the end of the year. Regardless of the outcome, para-surfers from around the world are hoping to make their debut on the Olympic stage. We spoke with two members of the German Para Surfing Team which is part of the German Surfing association. Christina Paetrow, the team manager and Johannes Laing, the athlete representative and athlete himself, shared their thoughts and let us know what preparations are on the way. Credit: Ben Reed/ISA Surfer: Johannes Laing ISA Parasurfing Games Pismo Beach  Last year in December 2022, the annual ISA World Para Surfing Championship was held in Pismo Beach, California. With a new record – more than 180 athletes from 28 nations came together to surf the waves. Since the beginning, the sport is constantly growing and has evolved, Johannes mentioned. He has the feeling that especially in the last couple of years and with the inclusion of surfing in the Olympics, the para surf movement and its community has grown  and strengthened a lot. The ISA World Para Surfing Championships have been around since 2015, Christina told me. And since 2017, the German Surf Team with Johannes Laing as one of the pioneers in German Para Surfing is part of it. There are different classes in the Worlds, as Christina explains: There are five main classes, the lying or prone, the sitting, the kneeling the standing and the visually impaired class for surfers with visual impairment or complete blindness. Some of them are divided into sub-classes. In the prone class, there is Prone 1 and Prone 2, for example. Prone 1 is for surfers who are able to surf unassisted, like Johannes and Antonio from our team, which means they paddle and surf independently on their belly. Prone 2 is for surfers who need assistance in the water. A “pusher” pushes them into the wave and a “catcher” receives the surfer at the water’s edge and helps them to get out in the line-up again after the surfer has ridden the wave. Surfers in the Visually Impaired classes – there are two as well depending on the level of eyesight – are joined by a guide in the water who supports the surfers with verbal signals, for example when to start paddling and and with regards to the direction of the wave. For the visually impaired the assistants do not touch the surfers compared to prone. There, so to speak, the surfer or the board is allowed to be touched. And in the standing class, there are three different classes. The standing class is not exclusively reserved for amputations. There are also other diagnoses, but otherwise, that’s right. So: Upper body respectively, lower body and below the knee, Johannes Laing added. The categories and each classification also compete among themselves. So there is no overlap. For example, prone 1 and 2 are different classes, and so to speak, also two gold medals that can be won. Johannes said that there are also different contest formats around though, where classes are mixed and compete against each other. But that’s not the case for the World Para Surfing Games, there it’s divided into different categories. Judging in para surfing  Johannes explains the difficulty: Mixed competitions in para surfing make the judges’ job difficult because they have to adapt to physical limitations and physical abilities.These can vary quite a bit within one class.The judging criteria are more or less the same as in non-adaptive or non-para competitions, so speed, power and flow. These are the three most important. But you have to realize that the sport is still young and still developing. That means that the level increases from year to year. Each year, I am amazed how the surfers, skills, and equipment develop. It’s getting better and better and the criteria are more effective than they were three or four years ago. Qualification for the Paralympics The qualification process of surfing for the Olympics 2024 in Tahiti is a mix of the WSL tour ranking and the ISA Worlds’ outcome. For the Para Surfing Championships, there is no qualification process announced yet. As Johannes says: So far, they are all open, which means that whoever has the financial means and who can pay the start fees, can also start. The ISA Games are so far the only ones where you have to go through the association.  In all other competitions, you are allowed to participate, and that makes sense because the numbers are not so big. So, if the WSL would say, everyone can participate, then they would not be able to save themselves from people who are professional surfers or think they are. That would be different with the Para Surfing League, if you introduce restrictions there, it would probably hurt more at the beginning. Therefore, practically everyone can participate. How does the German Para Surf team train  Until now, it’s been a very individual thing. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the financial resources to organize regular and professional training camps – something we’re working on, tells Johannes. The current active team is spread across Germany