The co-founder of Textured Waves is getting more women of color involved in the water and building a much-needed community for them.

By Danielle Black Lyons as told to Mary Anderson
October 28, 2020
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Everything clicked for me the moment I tried surfing one winter in Hawaii on a beautiful longboard I’d borrowed from a friend. While riding my first wave, I saw a sea turtle gliding beneath my board. I knew that was a sign I had to continue.

Now, I surf every single day. I have my board strapped to my car before I drop my son off at school and then I head to the ocean. It’s where I go to get quiet, process my thoughts, and release the stresses of the day. It's my therapist, it's my sanctuary, it's my playground.

And after all this time, I’ve never lost that stoke you experience catching your first wave. Feeling what the wave is going to give me, then giving my energy back to the wave — it’s a dance. (Related: How Women's World Surf League Champion Carissa Moore Rebuilt Her Confidence After Body Shaming)

Credit: Megan Youngblood

The Lack of Representation In the World — and In the Waves

There aren’t a lot of women of color waiting for waves in the surf lineups in California... or really in all of the mainland U.S. I think the biggest issue is that imagery of women of color is lacking — and if you can't see it, you can't be it. It's important to have that imagery in your face at a young age, so that you can become that girl that rips by age nine or 10 and can strive to be on the world tour. If you don't start at a young age, you're at a disadvantage.

One thing that really struck me is that, in terms of mainstream imagery, a lot of the Black surfing stories seem to end at the very beginning: You see an image of an African American child getting pushed into water by the white savior, learning how to catch their first waves, and that's it. And that's a beautiful moment, but it's also just the beginning of the journey — it's not the whole story of Black surfers.

Credit: Bethany Mollenkof

Sparking a Sisterhood In the Surf

Four of us surfers found one another through the internet, and we started Textured Waves to promote diversity in the water and to build a community. There was this voice missing from surfing, a culture that wasn’t represented. We wanted to change that.

On Instagram, we started curating really beautiful content of female surfers and women of color, of all shades, shapes, and sizes, surfing and riding waves. Later on, we started incorporating lifestyle and action photos of us surfing and skateboarding onto the Instagram page, and eventually began posting other images that we found of other women of color, either whom we admired or we knew personally. (Related: Sisters of Yoga Is a Much-Needed Space for Women of Color)

Yes, Textured Waves is just a passion project. I mean, we all have full-time jobs and lives, but we're all very deeply invested in showing this other side of surfing — that it goes beyond that first wave. We continue to ride waves every day, and we're trying to build community, grow this movement, and get more women of color involved in the sport. Because it's so special when you can see yourself in someone else in the water and you're sharing waves. It's something that's beautiful in itself.

Shape Magazine, October 2020 issue

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