“After about 3 years of surfing in Costa Rica, I realized that there were very few African-American women represented in the lineup. After a few iterations of potential concepts, the current model of SurfearNEGRA was developed to focus on creating avenues for next generation girls of color to have access to the sport.” – SurfearNEGRA founder, GiGi Lucas
We caught up with GiGi and the campers of SurfearNEGRA at their recent Surf & Safety event to learn more about how the organization is diversifying the lineup and creating a big impact on the future generation of water women of color.
Sanuk: Hi GiGi! Why was it important for you to start SurfearNEGRA?
GiGi: I’m old enough to have lived through and overcome obstacles as a black woman. But, still young enough to remember how it felt to be faced with those obstacles with no one to look to for guidance and help. Hopefully, what we’re building is a community of leaders who are comfortable in their own skin and are not afraid to go out (and overcome) the unknown. And, then, retain a sense of duty to pay it forward to the next generation.
S: It sounds like the ocean is your Happy Place. Why is it important for you to share that with black youth?
G: The ocean has taught me (and still teaching me) so much about life in general. How to surrender and be still. How to enjoy it. How to move through life with full confidence that I am supported and have an abundance of resources at my fingertips.
If I had this same understanding of the world around me when I was younger, I would’ve made very different decisions in life. So, I feel it is my duty to, at the very least, share the option with these girls of learning what I’ve come to know.
S: Tell us about the Surf and Safety event and how it supports your mission.
G: After working with surf camps over the past 2 summers, a major component I realized was missing from the process of learning to surf was learning how the ocean worked around these students. Most of the time, the kids in our program don’t come from families with aquatic lifestyles. So, we want to ensure that every kid has the opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding of many characteristics of the ocean.
Not only will it facilitate a better understanding of the dynamics of surfing, it will also aid in keeping these kids safe in an ever changing environment.
The goal is to make an unbreakable connection between both the fun AND the responsibility of surfing.
Although, we want to encourage our kids to be as free as possible when in the ocean. We also need them to be aware and exercise sound judgement while enjoying this beautiful natural resource in order for them to stay alive to enjoy it for many years to come.
S: What do you hope to bring to the lives of the kids who attend your camp or event?
G: Confidence, freedom, joy and peace. Once any kid accomplishes this mental state, they can do anything their heart desires.
GiGi’s efforts are already creating a huge impact on the young women who attend her camp and events. Meet 15-year-old Nina Stouffer and her mom, Kenya. The universe connected the three and the relationship has already provided new surfer, Nina, with the tools and support she needs in and out of the water.
Sanuk: Hi Kenya! How did you find SurfearNEGRA?
Kenya: Nina came to me one day and said, “Mom do you think I could be a professional surfer.” I said you can be whatever you want to be. I signed her up for her first local contest. I remember nervously navigating the check-in process and feeling like a fish out of water when I spotted GiGi in the crowd! Our family has grown-up at the beach. It may seem trivial to some to say we’d never seen a person of color involved in the surfing scene, but it’s the truth. I made a bee-line for her and introduced myself and my daughter’s participation in the contest, and Nina has been under her wings ever since.
S: Why was it the perfect place for Nina to learn how to surf?
K: Nina was born a water baby and has always been connected with the ocean. Nina has always been an athlete and excelled in sports. But I could tell she was feeling intimidated by the surfing culture. Most of her friends that surfed had been surfing since childhood and had family members to learn from or to mentor them. I supported her passion as much as I could but knew I was out of my league. I always say the universe was smiling down on us the day we crossed paths with GiGi and SurferNEGRA.
S: What do you love about the camp?
K: Support from GiGi and the organizations has provided Nina access to professional training, equipment,and helped her better understand, predict and navigate the ocean. But it’s invaluable to be able to share her passion and journey with a role model you can identify with. That was an element that was missing for her. She adores GiGi and her strong, kind, free spirit. She has been a testament to us both that even though a journey may seem tough, hold onto your passions, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Sanuk: Hey Nina! Sounds like you’re becoming quite the ripper. Tell us about surf camp. What do you love about surfing? What do you love about being at camp?
Nina: I love the surfing camp because I like the relaxed environment, being with girl surfers and meeting new friends.
S: How do you feel when you’re surfing?
N: The ocean is my happy place! It’s the only thing I look forward to every single day. Being out in the open water is relaxing and I bond with the ocean.
S: What are some of your goals with surfing?
N: Understanding more and getting better as a surfer.
Here’s to the next gen of surfing and to continuing to #diversifythelineup!
Thank you to SurfearNEGRA and Kenya and Nina Stouffer for sharing their stories. And to Jenny Heuston for the images.