Big wave charger, PhD scientist, co-founder of Waves of Freedom, artist, adventurer, and all-round lover of life, Easkey Britton has many strings to her bow and although her life is positively hectic, for the past year she has been working with a bunch of equally talented women to put together the world’s first Surf and Social Good Summit.
Using surfing as a vehicle for positive change, the Summit will bring together like-minded folk from all over the globe who seek to explore and collaborate on ideas for a better future.
We asked Easkey a few questions about this exciting event that is just around the corner…
When and how did the idea for the Surf and Social Good Summit come about?
About a year ago this slowly began to take shape – it came from a need a realisation that I could only do so much on my own… Having just started Waves of Freedom, I had so many questions and I wondered how other people coped in similar situations – trying to effect change doing what they love. I wanted to ask them, how did you do that? What challenges do you face and how do you overcome them, what motivates and inspires you? Questions I’ve been asking myself and have discovered how much easier it is to find the answers to what we’re seeking when we ask! Sounds silly, that should be so obvious. But when we’re so driven by passion we can forget how important it is to reach out – it’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength – by coming together and acting collectively, creating meaningful connection we can bring about far greater impact. That’s what happened and how this collective, surfing + social good, began and continues to grow.
Your event plans to harness the power of surfing as a tool to bring about positive social change. In your opinion, what are some of the greatest challenges in achieving this change?
This is exactly the kind of question we will be asking and tackling at the Summit. For me, I see the greatest challenges as disconnect, a growing disconnect within ourselves, between each other and especially the world we live in – our environment. But perhaps the more important question is why surfing matters – why is it such a powerful force for social impact? I think surfing is such a powerful and positive metaphor for how we live life and overcome challenge. Surfing isn’t easy, it’s unpredictable, we have to leave our need to control behind and be open to the unexpected; it demands our total awareness and presence to the moment, along with a willingness to let go, flex and adapt, and exposes us to a force far greater than ourselves.
You plan to empower individuals, particularly young women and girls. What are some of the specific challenges young women and girls face compared to their male counterparts?
As momentum around surfing builds with over 35 million surfers globally and surfing rapidly growing in developing countries in particular, it’s becoming increasingly important to better understand the benefits of surfing and to acknowledge their differential effect on girls’ lives in diverse cultural and economic settings. That said, a gender perspective is largely absent in the global surf culture, especially any media that includes female voices from emerging surf cultures. And yet, surfing is proving to be a powerful force for social change in emerging surf cultures such as Iran where, through Waves of Freedom’s work with young pioneering sportswomen, surfing has become a story led by women and a medium to connect across gender, cultural, class and religious divides within the country. In Papua New Guinea, we co-facilitated an initiative launching surfing as a tool for self-empowerment and to raise awareness to end violence against women. As a result, young women experienced an increased sense of recognition in their communities, a sense of belonging and equal status in the line-up, a shift in attitudes of their expected roles, increased self-confidence and participation in local decision-making. And now we have the Girls Make Waves Action Day at the Summit on May 17th – the aim of which is to create connection and community by capturing and sharing stories like these and through them, exploring the potential for surfing to act as a catalyst to change gender-based inequalities, aiming to unveil the rich diversity of surfing women around the globe, regardless of sexuality, race, and class. Surfing is a dynamic way to build confidence, overcome fears, and connect with others in a safe space, which are all very relevant for girls and women.
This is the next step in “Sport for Gender Equality.” Sport has demonstrated its transformative power in addressing social challenges, particularly toward advancing gender equality. Organizations from the United Nations, USAID, DFID, and more have propelled it as a major tool in international gender empowerment. Surfing is the next wave in this movement- harnessing the natural power of the ocean, as a force that unifies individuals and overcomes barriers.
Involvement in surfing can positively change existing gender norms and help girls and women move into public space and become important role models for others, such Mona Seraji, Iran’s first woman of surf who is coaching other girls how to surf in her country.
What sort of fire in the belly can people expect to walk away with after the summit?
Fired up to act, inspired to start the thing they thought they couldn’t, new networks…
This is a beginning – to map out the successes and opportunities, as well as challenges and obstacles, and to form new opportunities for collaboration through research networks and project partnerships that we hope to create during our final day, the Impact Lab, May 18th. We’re going to help maintain these connections and opportunity for collaboration by partnering with Hashtag Charity (#charity), an amazing organisation bringing their tech and innovation skills to S+SG by building a collaborative platform for us to continue to work together on high-impact ideas and projects beyond the Summit.
This is about growing an active community of wave-makers globally and we’d love to get the support to offer this as global experience, with events at various locations around the world.
There are plenty of ways to connect to the cause…
– The S+SG Summit is almost full but there might still be some places left if you register here.
– Support and give to our S+SG initiatives via the online Crowdrise fundraising campaign.
– Join the Twitter Chat, May 8th 9am EST/ 2pm GMT/ 9pm Bali time, follow the conversation on #surfsocialgood
All images courtesy of Easkey Britton, who would like to give special thanks to all their supporters, sponsors and partners, especially Waterways Travel, The Cashew Tree, Salt Gypsy and Surfer Girl.