Frau mit Surfboard stehend an Land. Abendstimmung am Himmel.

Surfing as a tool for women’s empowerment

“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. 

Women with blond hair with locks in a wetsuit for surfing. Looking thoughtfully.


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 them: surfing as a motivation to live and to protect the place they love, namely the sea. 

About Annika and behind the scenes

My name is Annika von Schütz and I‘m 35 years old. Originally, I‘m from the south of Germany and grew up close to the mountains. However, I felt more and more attracted to the ocean. In 2019, I decided to move to Portugal, the place I have been longing for many years.

Portugal is unique for its wilderness, beauty, people with a warm heart, delicious food and a very special energy. It kept inspiring me to fully dedicate three years (2019- 2022) with the goal of creating the 60-minute documentary film „Femme Ocean”. Everything started at the artist residency „LAC ” in Lagos at the Algarve. From there I traveled up and down the coast for research and filming. Just before the outbreak of the pandemic, I was shooting in Sri Lanka. Luckily I got most of what I had planned. Afterwards, in April 2020 surfing got banned mostly around the world and I had problems continuing with the project. Unfortunately, I was not able to enter Morocco anymore, so I decided to realize the shooting from home, doing the interview online with zoom and guiding the camera man with facetime on the phone.

The force of nature kept motivating me to finish the massive film project mostly by myself. Luckily, I had the amazing editor Nadja Werner (Berlin) who came with me on board. She did such a great job! Thanks to her, it has the beautiful character of a documentary film festival. Besides, I created a little film team in each country to work locally.

Sometimes I wanted to stop, but there was the wish to raise the voice for women around the world and inspire them, so I kept continuing with it. Femme Ocean is made for men and women, but especially for all the girls and women out there. To find their inner strength, to feel the power of the ocean and transform the energy of the waves in order to stand up for equality.

Trailer of the movie

The Premier of “Femme Ocean ” took place in July 2022. Until the end of 2023, the documentary film will still be part of the international festival circuit. Meanwhile, I‘m looking for a collaboration partner to stream it online and provide access for everyone. Stay updated on the website and the Instagram account.


FEMME OCEAN Official Trailer from Annika von Schütz on Vimeo.

Director of Femme Ocean & Producer – Annika v. Schütz

A Master of Arts in Media, Annika is a filmmaker herself. Her award-winning documentary “Set up to sell – Surfing as a lifestyle product” (2018) kept her driving through the European Atlantic coast. A German native who has been working in theatre, television and film festivals in Berlin, considers herself a resident of the world. She started „Femme Ocean“ in 2019 as a sponsored resident artist at LAC, Laboratório Actividades Criativas, in Lagos and keeps living in Portugal. Thanks to a great network to the international surf scene, she is always in contact with interesting surfers, surf journalists and environmental activists from around the world. Her newest short film „El Alma (the stringer)“ in collaboration with Sunny Breger and Jorge López de Guereñu was just premiered in Spain.

“Femme Ocean“ was mostly self funded. If you want to support the high costs of the post production, please donate here: 


Follow @femme_ocean @annikasyniva on Instagram 


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