I met Mira at Patagonia SoHo after a talk by big wave surfer Mercedes Maidana. If I remember correctly, she was wearing a hiking pack, headed straight for the airport. Non-stop and full of energy, she’s on a mission to empower women through surfing and rap around the world. Huh? Yeah, you heard! See how the two connect on her current journey in Brazil…
Surfing and hip hop??
Both are powerful subcultures – both are all about flow, whether your playing with words and rhymes and getting in that zone over a beat, or whether you are on that edge of a wave, about to make a drop into something scary. Both deal with that space of adrenaline and
self-awareness, where, when you are really flowing, you are not held back by fear, and you can do great things. Quite frankly, I wish there was more overlap in the culture associated with hip hop and surfing, and that’s one reason why I am doing this project. Surf culture, at least in commercial mainstream American media, I feel has been pretty narrowly defined– the “endless summer,” the California blonde beach babe, the music of Jack Johnson and the Beach Boys. That’s never really fit who I am, and I would like to actively work to broaden surf culture to include forms of music and expression, that resonate much more strongly with me, and other folks who haven’t seen themselves reflected in surf media.
Over the past ten years I’ve been exposed to a lot of Brazilian music, percussion, and dancing, and I love it. A weird little way I procrastinate when writing is learning the words to Brazilian samba songs. So I wanted to go to Brazil for a long time just to soak up the music and culture and language, which I think is beautiful. But then I got really into surfing in the last 3 years, living 5 minutes from the beach (respect to all you NYC surfers who trek way further than me to hit the waves), and I also started noticing that there were a ton of great Brazilian surfers. So I did some research on the coastline and there are lots of great breaks, especially in the South. So it was a perfect combination: surf and music in Brazil.
What’s your end goal on this journey?
The goal is the journey itself. I hope to share my adventures as a girl surf traveler, and also the stories of the women and girls I meet along the way. I’m doing this through a combination of media well-suited for the internet: music videos, blog posts, video clips, photos. Personally, this is an amazing opportunity for me to really grow as a surfer, a musician, and video artist and to immerse myself in a culture I have always admired. Every day, my head feels like its going to explode with everything I am learning. I hope that when I return from Brazil at winter’s end, I will be able to continue to do creative music and video work, around women surfing, women of color in the outdoors, hip hop and surfing! All are areas that need more promotion.
My hope is that other women and girls will see these videos and blog posts and feel inspired or excited to try something new, and that folks who have never gone surfing may feel a little bit closer to something that once seemed out of reach. I want to create media that joyfully affirms the power of women to be big and bold. I see the music videos as part of my ongoing work as an environmental educator, in which I have tried to integrate creative expression, particularly hip hop culture, into my teaching, to empower youth to feel a sense of cultural ownership of the outdoors.
What’s your take on female surfing in Brazil?
In big surf spots like Florianopolis and Rio, you can see lots of AMAZING girl surfers. That same samba flare that makes Brazilian soccer players so fun to watch also applies to surfing. The women here, like the men, can really shred! The ratio of female to male surfers here roughly corresponds to my local break in Northern California – probably one girl for every 7 to 10 guys. When I was in Salvador, Bahia, where surfing is still popular but more for your committed urban surfers, I was almost always the only girl in the water, though I did meet a couple rad women body boarders towards the end of my stay. The surf magazines in Brazil are squarely aimed at men, with the usual (alienating if you are a woman) sections on surf babes with lots of butt shots on the beach. There is an awesome and popular free journal called “Drop” in Florianopolis which treats women just like, well, surfers, and that one always makes me happy. I’ll let you know once I learn more! It’s a good question for browngirlsurf.com - a rad organization run by my friend Farhana which is highlighting the stories of pioneering surfing ladies in countries where it ain’t so easy to be one. She’s on a trip to Bangladesh and India right now.
How can someone get involved?
The most important thing people can do is to share the videos and media I am making with other girls and women. You can find it all at www.surfergrrrls.com and find regular updates at www.facebook.com/surfergrrrls. On the website, click on the link for music and video for links directly to the music videos. I am always interested in speaking gigs as well. I want as many girls and women as possible to hear about and be inspired by this project. I am always looking for collaborators – videographers, music engineers, hip hop artists, beat makers. If this project really stirs your imagination and you’d like to get involved in this way, you can
hit me up through the blog or facebook page.
Mercedes’s story is pretty inspiring huh? Especially the fact that she didn’t start surfing til 24 and now is taking on insanely large waves! What women inspire you?
I am inspired by women who are pushing limits – within the system and outside. In the world of music, I am a big fan of Missy Elliot and Bjork, because they are just busting open the scene constantly. They are totally unrestrained by the straitjacket of what the mainstream has defined as sexy and appropriate for women, and they KILL IT – defining all this on their own terms, with their wild intergalactic creativity, and being, in my opinion, the most fabulous women out there.
I am inspired by women who use their bravery, their intelligence, their creative skills, their athleticism, or whatever to challenge the status quo and work towards social justice and create more room for women to be themselves. I am a big fan of Angela Davis the great
intellectual activist for prison reform and a more just economic system and a huge admirer of Rell Sun, the great Hawaiian surfer and community activist. Both inspire me to be brave, to act on my beliefs even when it is uncomfortable, and to give of myself to others.
Is there a quote you live by or do you have any words of advice for the younger female surfers?
A big lesson I have learned from surfing is persistence and not feeling shy about screwing up. Learning new things doesn’t come easy, and you will often look stupid while you are beginning to improve. Don’t be afraid of messing up. Don’t wait for permission. If you want something, go do it. Learn to love yourself when you are bumbling, and learning, and trying. Learn to laugh and go back the next day and try again. Just putting yourself out there, in the mix, makes you brave and awesome – whether with surfing, school, dating, learning to play the drums, or whatever — so stick with it.
Join Mira’s journey.