Danielle Black Lyon’s is the co-founder of Textured Waves, a community of women in the United States that’s finding creative ways to bring diversity and representation to the surfing world. We chat to Danielle about her experience of being underrepresented in the surfing world, how time in the water heals and her surfing mentors.
How did the Textured Waves collective come to be and why?
Me and my fellow founders Chelsea and Martina shared a mutual frustration by the lack of diversity and representation in the surf world and decided we needed to be the change we wanted to see. Textured Waves is a movement of women of all shades coming together around our shared love of surfing.
What change have you observed in your community since you began this amazing and much needed collective?
I have noticed a lot more women in the water and with that comes an energy shift- more care, grace and camaraderie. There has been a surge of more collectives and organizations popping up as well which is really beautiful to see.
Could you share a bit about how you first got into surfing?
I started riding waves when I was a kid, mainly body surfing and bodyboarding. Surfing was introduced a bit later in life during my freshman year of college. I went home for the Christmas holidays with a friend to the big Island and her sister let me borrow her longboard. It was love at first sight and I have been surfing on and off ever since.
Up until your work with Textured Waves, what has been your experience of being underrepresented in the surfing world as a woman of colour?
Not seeing yourself represented in outdoor spaces as a youth is incredibly damaging. There is often expectation placed on POC to excel at athletics even when the playing field is unequal. As a woman of colour I am often one of the few, if not the only in my lineup, which can feel isolating. I am often underestimated on my surf ability when I enter a new space and at times feel tremendous pressure to perform just to show that I belong. As I mature, I care less and less about what people think of me. I won't shrink myself to make others feel comfortable and I will unapologetically take up space.
I love this quote. You say, “what we are trying to do is reclaim the healing powers of the ocean in our culture. Before the slave trade, our communities lived along the coast and enjoyed the sea.” How have you yourself found healing in the water?
Surfing is a very individual sport. I surf daily and I am out there alone 90 percent of the time. It is my sanctuary, a space where I can clear my head and get grounded. Whatever emotion I am feeling I can just feel it and surf it out. I always leave the water feeling refreshed. Not always cured, but certainly more in tune with where my head is at and what steps I need to take to get it together.
I have noticed a lot more women in the water and with that comes an energy shift - more care, grace and camaraderie.
Do you have any surfing mentors?
Mary Mills is a surfer I very much admire. She, like myself, tells it like it is and I appreciate that kind of honesty and individuality. She doesn't care what people think, she rides whatever surf craft suits her, wears bright colored wetsuits and surfs for herself.
We find surfing to be a teacher in some ways, do you feel this and if so, what has it taught you?
The ocean is one of my greatest teachers and surfing has been the vehicle. I am constantly humbled by the ocean, some days I look at myself and think, man you really stink at this! I think everyone has days like that. It doesn't always connect. Occasionally I wake up with two left feet and I am a danger to myself and others. You gotta embrace the suck. You can't always wait for perfect conditions- that won't make you a better surfer. Surf the ugly, onshore days too. It builds character and strengthens your skill set as a surfer.
You organise a lot of events and retreats through textured waves. Could you share a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
We just wrapped up our first Co Wash retreat in Waikiki. We had 10 women in attendance for five days of surf, yoga, cultural enrichment and sisterly camaraderie. It was an incredible experience and we had an amazing group of women join us from all over the United States and Central America. We hope to make this an annual event and explore other surf destinations in the future.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work with Textured Waves?
Building a community that I wish I had growing up is absolutely the best part of Textured Waves. I get to work with women I admire and who inspire me to do better and dream bigger.
Danielle wears the Chacahua Surf Suit. Image credit Jo Savage.