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Surfer Girls

Brown Girl Surf is making the surfing landscape a little less homogeneous


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Zuni Mosley-Moon

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Elena Serrano

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Cristine Blanco

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Jamila Hubbard

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Jessica Knox

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Justine Courtenay-Huang

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Mira Manickam-Shirley

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Sandra Ajanaku

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Natasha Brown

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“She thinks of herself as a mermaid—she is such a black hippie,” Ari Serrano-Embree says of her 57-year-old mother, Elena Serrano, who recently went surfing for the first time as part of Brown Girl Surf’s Community Surf Saturdays.

It was a brisk fall morning in Half Moon Bay, and nearly 30 girls and women of color—ages 9 to 57—were yanking on wetsuits and guiding one another into the bone-chilling white wash. Brown Girl Surf was started by Farhanna Huq and Mira Manickam-Shirley to infuse what they saw as a homogeneous, white-male-dominated surf culture with surfers who looked like them.

In 2014, their first group paddled out—a dozen middle-school-age girls from Hunters Point. “We had one board and three ripped wetsuits,” Manickam-Shirley recalls. Today, thanks to sponsors, grants, and a dedicated crew of all-ages volunteers, every surfer is amply outfi tted and Brown Girl Surf hosts up to 12 sessions a year.

“We are building this intergenerational sisterhood of women who love the ocean and support each other,” Manickam-Shirley says.


Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco

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