During our first block of shooting, we travelled out of Colombo to the East Coast of Sri Lanka to Arugambay, a fishing village and international surf Mecca. We went to Abay to meet Tiffany Carothers and the Girls Make Waves Surf Club. Founded in 2015, Girls Make Waves’ mission is to empower girls and women through the sport of surfing. I had heard of Tiffany’s initiative and was inspired to meet her and the members. When I reached out to Tiff, I told her about the film’s mission and she was very receptive to have the club featured in our film.
Many of the girls and the club experienced pushback from their families and the village at the start. Swimming, let alone surfing, is not part of traditional Sri Lankan culture for women and girls. What may be a common activity for Westerners was and still is taboo for local women. But once these ladies got their first taste of surfing there was no looking back. Together they organized and kept paddling out. Surfing became a vehicle for independence, sisterhood, and freedom. It’s a really inspiring story and we spent two days shooting the girls out in the water riding the waves, capturing their strength, resilience and joy.
During our stay in Abay word spread about our film and we were inundated with interviews. Subjects were inspired to break their silence and give their personal testimony on film. It was an intense three days of non-stop shooting from dawn to dark. There was a wonderful and uplifting sense of solidarity between the film crew and the local community. We trusted and believed in each other, holding space for each other in hope and resilience. We see a better future and we are watching change happen. It’s never a straight and easy path, just like surfing there will be many challenges and rough waters, but with persistence, commitment and a lot of stoke, we rise.
I asked Tiffany for an update on the club’s activities and here’s what she wrote:
“Well it’s been a long lockdown period, but one thing they did allow was surfing.. yay! So as we didn’t really do any big group surfing activities during that time, we just started up again this week now that we are off of lockdown. Naomi, Amu and Shamali have all been surfing consistently with me or on their own throughout this time. I’m very excited for them as they continue improving! All funds that come to Girls Make Waves will all go towards Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club. Thanks for featuring our girls and this movement here!”
Please visit the club’s site https://www.girlsmakewaves.com to learn more about their story and mission. You can donate directly to the club or earmark a donation to them through our fundraising campaign.