upper waypoint

Breaking Waves, Breaking Barriers: The Badass Women of Brown Girl Surf

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

When Oakland’s Mira Manickam decided to teach herself to surf seven years ago, she didn’t see any role models in the Northern California surf scene who looked like her.

That didn’t stop Manickam, a 38-year-old Indian-American environmental educator, multimedia artist and rapper, who today heads up Brown Girl Surf, a scrappy Bay Area nonprofit working to shatter the stereotype that surfing is only for sun-bleached dudes, cemented in pop culture with classics like Endless Summer.

“I’ve always had a rebel, change-the-system streak in me,” says Manickam, “and when there is no one who looks like me doing something I want to do, it makes me want to do it even more. With Brown Girl Surf, we are creating a culture in our own image.”

Through summer surf camps, seasonal surf crews, Surf Sister Saturdays and other programs, Brown Girl Surf has reached dozens of girls and young women of color from Bayview, Hunter’s Point, Oakland and beyond. Surfboards and wetsuits are provided for participants, the majority of whom also receive some sort of scholarship for its programs.

For many participants, it’s their first exposure to surfing and ocean swimming.

Sponsored

“It makes me feel empowered and in control of what I want to do with my life,” says 15-year-old Clara Martinez, a student at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo.

“The outdoors haven’t always felt like they belong to everyone and we’re creating that access point,” adds Manickam. “Out in the water, being so aware of your surroundings and what the waves are doing, you are just so close to the elements and in touch with your most animal brain and instincts, amazing things happen.” – Kelly Whalen

lower waypoint
next waypoint
Sunnyvale’s Hottest Late-Night Food Spot Is the 24-Hour Indian Grocery StoreThe World Naked Bike Ride Is Happening on 4/20 in San FranciscoSystem of a Down, Deftones to Headline San Francisco Concert After Outside LandsWhere to Celebrate Eid al-Fitr in the Bay Area, From Buffets to Food MarketsTicket Alert: Missy Elliott Is Playing at the Oakland ArenaPro-Palestinian Jewish Artists Withdraw from Contemporary Jewish Museum ExhibitThe Pop-Up Village Offers a 'Constellation' of Community Resources in San FranciscoThree Local Artists Win SFMOMA’s SECA Art AwardHow a Chicana-Owned Agency Is Shining a Light on the East Bay’s Diverse Food SceneThe Chronic Pain Of White Supremacy