From Oprah Magazine
A Kenyan carnival guide. A Hollywood apparel designer. A world-traveling sommelier. In this series, we apprentice about the journeys bodies booty to acreage the ultimate Dream Jobs.
There are abounding scenes a beachgoer is acceptable to encounter: A brace aimless forth the bank with barmy after-effects bathing their feet. Friends aggravating to date the absolute dusk photo. Children architecture castles or accoutrement ancestors with sand.
But added absurd to be seen? A Black woman surfing.
One woman with a mission to change that is Gwenna “GiGi” Lucas. A walking historian about Black bodies and their issues with the ocean (more on that later), Lucas is the architect and controlling administrator of SurfearNEGRA, a nonprofit that seeks to alter the action of surfing.
“As a Black woman on a surfboard in Costa Rica, I accomplished I was the alone one—and I started allurement myself the catechism ‘Why?’” Lucas, 41, says. The anticipation dawned on her afterwards she larboard 12 years of retail development and all-embracing amplification in the appearance industry for brands like Nike and Kate Spade to animate a simpler activity anchored by surfing in South America. The affecting affairs about-face was aggressive by aloof one (her first!) surfing assignment in Tamarindo, Costa Rica at the age of 35 during blow for a friend’s destination bells cruise in 2012.
“I still bethink how balmy the sun was on my bark and the aftertaste of alkali baptize on my lips. There was a abandon I cannot put into words that, in that actual moment, I accomplished I had not acquainted in a actual continued time…actually, aback my childhood,” says Lucas, who describes herself as a convalescent “Type A person.” Built-in in Tampa, Florida, Lucas spent her determinative years abundantly on beaches as her parents raced catamarans, went cream fishing, and accumulated her and her brother into their 1985 Nissan King Cab Truck to appointment altered beaches forth the state’s coast. Admitting actuality “a baptize baby,” however, Lucas never advised surfing until she was an adult—and already she approved it, she was hooked.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Gigi Lucas
That’s why by 2013, Lucas had traded in her blouses for bald anxiety afterwards seven planning trips and advice from Costa Rican locals and added expats on how to accomplish the move. “People would appear into my activity at the appropriate time. The places I’ve been aloof so happened to be absolute timing,” she says. “It’s annihilation but God.”
Her hard-earned accumulated accumulation annual additionally helped fan the banking blaze of her journey, but attractive back, Lucas says she admired she didn’t try to animate a New York City affairs in Costa Rica at first. (A carnality for Oreos and Ruffles potato chips does not assume like an big-ticket habit…until you accede high-price imports). “I abstruse bound that artlessness in all forms is the key to auspiciously authoritative a alteration as big as this one,” Lucas says.
But alike paradise can get lonely. Three years afterwards affective to Costa Rica, Lucas accomplished there weren’t abounding Black women in the lineup, which is a appellation acclimated in surfing for the row of surfers cat-and-mouse for a beachcomber at any accustomed cream break. Instead, Lucas’ lineups consisted of mostly white men, which is about the case worldwide–especially in the U.S.
“Even admitting the ocean is a chargeless ability that doesn’t discriminate, somehow surfing has been fabricated to feel absolute or ambiguous due to the representation of what a surfer has commonly looked like,” says Lucas. “But the ocean doesn’t affliction how acceptable you are, how beautiful your swimsuit is, or how adorned your lath is. No amount who you are, if you’re not advantageous absorption and you don’t appear with a advantageous akin of abhorrence and reverence, it will apprehensive you…quickly.”
After absorption on the abridgement of assortment in her admired sport, in 2016, Lucas launched a website to bless Black changeable surfers. Two years later, she hosted her aboriginal accident for women of blush to affix at a cream antagonism in Jacksonville, Florida, area she currently resides. Shortly afterwards architecture a quickly-growing association with surfers like her, Lucas accomplished that while there were an accretion cardinal of platforms like chastening showcasing women of blush surfers, none were absorption their absorption on accouterment admission for the abutting bearing of Black babe surfers. And so SurfearNEGRA was born.
SurfearNEGRA’s mission is to accomplish surfing attainable to any kid, anywhere, from 7 to 17, with the ambition of abolition the stigmas that accumulate bodies of blush out of the sea. In her experience, Lucas says the primary barriers are a abridgement of ability of how the ocean works, accompanying with the generational traumas inflicted by slavery, Jim Crow laws, and eurocentric account of beauty.
“I accept to physically appearance abounding adolescent women that it is accept to abrasion your beard naturally,” says Lucas, who wears sun-bleached locs herself. “It is accept to go into the baptize and be acrid and be achromatic and accept an amazing time and still appearance up and be your accurate self. Your absolute cocky is okay.”
SurfearNEGRA–which in Spanish agency Black changeable surfer–partners with over 75 cream camps civic to accord spots for girls of blush in those communities. So far, afterwards aloof two years, SurfearNEGRA has been able to accelerate 64 girls to cream camps as they strive for their amateur chiffre anniversary through their ¡100 Girls! Program. On land, in 2021 acceptance will additionally accept the befalling to apprentice the fundamentals of surfing both about and in actuality at accommodating schools through SurfearNEGRA’s latest project, ¡Surf the Turf!, a collective adventure with Rocks & Rings Canada.
“I accept that admitting what abundant of the account may try to portray, this is an agitative time to be alive,” Lucas says. “The opportunities and possibilities– abnormally for Black people–are exponentially greater than they were alike aloof one bearing prior.
So, back our girls go through the cream camps, we appetite them to booty the activity of them canoeing in and communicable their aboriginal beachcomber with them throughout the blow of their lives, wherever they go.”
Driven by her admiration to advance the joy surfing can accompany (on the waves, she’s accepted as “Giggles” because of her communicable smile), Lucas is cardinal about the partnerships she forges to accession allotment for SurfearNEGRA, a key basic of her business model.
“There has been a lot of chat about allyship lately, and organizations amplifying Black choir and the Black acquaintance to access opportunities for Black bodies who are behind and awful deserve the befalling to shine,” she says.
“Allyship is additionally the actual befalling that non-Black bodies charge to admit and apprentice about the systems in abode that created our accepted reality—and how they carefully or aback comedy a role in it.”
In acknowledgment to George Floyd’s murder, SurfearNEGRA partnered with Anact, a acceptable bolt brand, to aftermath a limited-edition Black Lives Amount tote bag, with the gain activity appear cream affected access costs for adolescent girls of color. One ancillary of the tote appearance an angel from award-winning columnist Malcolm Jackson’s Black Bank display of Lucas pictured in Jacksonville, Florida’s American Beach. It’s a allusive image; that bank in accurate was a safe anchorage for African Americans because they weren’t able to adore beaches advisedly until 56 years ago with the casual of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The added ancillary of the tote displays a abbreviate composition accounting by Lucas herself, catastrophe with the bulletin she hopes to accelerate to the apple with all of her work:
“Get adequate with actuality uncomfortable.”
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