Grommethood is a state of mind rather than a function of age (or sex).
One day, a bunch of moms dropped off their children at school. Rather than going to work, grocery shopping or doing laundry, they all decided to take a surf lesson together and discovered a new appreciation for the beautiful Santa Barbara coast. One lesson turned into months of lessons, and surfing worked its magic among the moms.
Toyo Yamane Peluso was afraid of the waves after a bad experience in her youth, and her sons started surfing before she did. Agreeing to take that first lesson from her son’s instructor opened up something wonderful for Toyo: the camaraderie of women out in the water sharing something very special, progressing together in an adventurous activity.
“Growing up in Santa Barbara you would think that everyone grew up surfing,” she says. “Not true. I remember all the girls sitting on the beach watching the boys as they surfed. Matter of fact, I always had a fear of the waves. When I was invited to a mamas surf lesson, I can’t believe I said yes.” Surfing wasn’t something she thought she’d find herself doing, but it turned out to be exactly what she needed. “I’m too busy, completely out of shape, forty-six is too old to start anything new, and I’m scared of the ocean,” she continued. “Well, long story short, it was the most amazing and liberating experience ever! I’ve not felt this healthy in twenty years. I want every woman in the world to feel the total confidence and exhilaration that surfing can bring.”
So the moms formed their own support and friendship group, separate from the surf school, surfing local breaks with local women. A surfing sisterhood.
“You can’t think about laundry or y0ur next board meeting when you’re in the sea!” says Toyo.
The Divas definitely have their own approach to the water. Toyo tells of a pretty tense male surfer hassling for waves and ending up wiping out along with one of the surf divas. The guy was completely fazed when the diva came up full of joy and saying, “Hey! We just rode the same wave together!”
Toyo says the Divas “Embrace ‘I’m just learning.’” The ladies point out waves to each other, ride the same waves together, and boost each other’s confidence all the time. “We all scream, hoot and holler,” says Toyo. “We get some excellent girl surfers who come out with us and after a while they begin to feel they can express their exhilaration, they feel confident and incredibly relaxed with us.”
Toyo thinks they could develop a whole new surfing lingo, away from and not following the male testosterone influenced group culture. “Being together with each other, no make-up, not looking at each other through men’s eyes breaks down all the walls and makes for a very secure learning environment.” she says.
“We’re real women,” she goes on. According to Toyo, the surf industry is going to grow from eight billion dollars to thirteen billion dollars a year, and most of that growth will be in women surfers. Keeping the money-making business side from polluting the pure stoke that women surfing together can enjoy is something Toyo is aware of. So keeping the goals and vision of Salt Water Divas true to their roots is a current project.
It’s not the first time ladies have helped each other and enjoyed exploring and discovering surfing together, but it is a strong flourishing of women’s appreciation of the sea and waves and it has its own unique and nurturing character.
Ladies new to surfing want to know they are secure and many want to have professional lessons and to hire equipment, so Salt Water Divas passes request on to local surf schools while keeping business out of Salt Water Divas, which is non profit.
Today any member can post a Meet-Up, giving time and place. Other members post their intention to attend. “It’s a special community” says Toyo. “We do something that is somewhat unique for women and others in the group are taking it on themselves to initiate.”
The Divas Mission statement says it all:
“The Salt Water Divas’ mission is to empower women of all ages to come out to the beach, off the sand and experience the feeling of total rejuvenation and renewal you get though surfing as part of a healthy, active lifestyle. Founded in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, we are a network of unique spirited women who come from all walks of life.”
To see more, check out saltwaterdivas.com