Girls in Arugam Bay are raised in a surf community, where many of their fathers, brothers and uncles are surfers and work in the surf industry. Surrounded by surfing from a young age, many girls feel a natural desire to learn how to surf too. However, this has not been an option for the majority of them.
Like many other countries, there are cultural expectations and norms for Sri Lankan women that prevent them from entering the public space and participating in sports such as surfing. Thus, apart from a few exceptions like Shamali Sanjaya, surfing has remained a man’s domain in Sri Lanka for decades.
Shamali, one of Arugam Bay's first surfer girls
First Girls Make Waves Event in 2015
gIRLS MAKE WAVES
In 2015, Tiffany Carothers from Surfing the Nations started weekly Girls Make Waves surf lessons for local girls in Arugam Bay. For the first time, women had the chance to learn how to surf in a safe space, supervised by female surf instructors.
The stoke spread, and over the next few years, the girls continued to surf, bringing a new source of happiness. However, back on land, they had to fight against expectations from society, their community and families. Because of this resistance, some women had to stop surfing, while others kept going, aiming to get into the waves more often.
In 2017, three women from Arugam Bay - Shamali Sanjaya and the sisters Anu and Darnika John - came up with the idea to establish a local women's surf club. While there was already a boys' surf club, they wanted to have their own girls' club, creating an environment where they could feel safe and support each other.
At this time, Martina Burtscher conducted research in Arugam Bay for her thesis about surfing and women's empowerment, and learned about the girls' dream.
Girls Make Waves in 2017
Founding of the Club, 10th of August 2018
Girls Make Waves Lesson in 2017
With the encouragement and help from Tiffany and Martina, in August 2018, the Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club was founded! Shortly after, Amanda Prifti joined the facilitating team and helped to set up the club.
In October 2018, the Surfing Federation of Sri Lanka (SFSL) officially registered the club as Sri Lanka's first female surf club - making history and representing a huge step forward for gender equality!
Today, the Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club keeps paving the way for women across the country to enter the surfing scene.
The club is run by local women for local women.
We have 20 members - and hope to inspire even more women to get on board.
The club is supported by a facilitating team, who assist with surf lessons, marketing, social media, and fundraising.