West Coast

CA - Why Capitola's Women on Waves is More Than Just a Surf Contest

Local event goes international with a focus on inclusion, conservation and community

As a 40-something mother of two who didn’t start surfing until 33—pretty much as far from a pro as one can be—I cannot believe I’ve entered a contest. I’m noncompetitive by nature, reliably intermediate at best in all of my recreational pursuits. But in signing up, I’m now part of the inclusive, celebratory reach of Women and Waves (WOW).

A day for women who range from novice to expert, 5 years old to elders, Women on Waves returns to Capitola on Saturday, Oct. 9, following the unforeseen global-scale success that came with going virtual last year.

The event, presented by long-term sponsor Play Bigger, is both a celebration of waterwomen and a fundraiser around the theme of ocean conservation. Last year’s virtual WOW, themed “Sea Beauty,” was centered on representation, inclusion, and diversity in surfing. Funds raised were channeled into organizations such as Brown Girl Surf and Black Girls Surf. Continuing in this vein, 2021’s “Sea Kindness” environmental focus benefits Groundswell, a nonprofit devoted to coastal restoration. Groundswell’s efforts improve coastal habitat by “providing a home for native birds, insects and other wildlife,” says Restoration Ecologist and Program Director Allison Wickland.

Aylana Zanville is one of the co-organizers who suddenly find Women on Waves with a global following. PHOTO: COURTESY OF AYLANA ZANVILLE

Contest With a Purpose

As WOW co-organizer, web and graphic designer and activist Marisol Godinez puts it, “Women on Waves was originally to empower women. Now we are in power, we have voices. We want to use them to deliver these different messages—underserved youth, diversity, ocean conservation. The event is evolving and morphing into something we haven’t seen.”

Godinez sees WOW as a platform to amplify different messages on work that still needs to be done in the areas of social and environmental justice. “[Women on Waves] was a surf contest. Now it’s a surf contest with a purpose,” she says.

The competitive aspect of Women on Waves is secondary to celebrating and uplifting waterwomen, raising money for crucial causes, and making a positive impact on both the community and a global scale.

“It’s been a very important message the last couple of years,” Godinez says. “Where is the money going? Why are you doing this? It’s about female empowerment, but also helping.”

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