The Great Lakes surf scene has grown exponentially over the past few years. We have witnessed the growth of a diverse community built on support, camaraderie, and inclusion. With more events and initiatives happening on a regular basis to bring people together out of the water, we wanted to organize a local event that focused on bringing landlocked women in Toronto to the Great Lakes. We’d set out to give women access to surfing and hopefully inspire them to make space for surf and SUP in their busy, urban lives.
With that, She Shreds was born in August 2017 when we rented a school bus to shuttle 50 ladies to the Scarborough Bluffs for a day of fun and fresh water. The following winter, we invited five professional female athletes to chat about the issues surrounding women and boardsports. This time, 150 women (and some men, too) showed up to listen.
For the third event of the She Shreds series, we decided one day wasn’t enough to keep up with the growth trend and felt there was more we could do to equip women to both begin, and continue, to surf and SUP. First, we opened our home to Canadian surfer and writer Janne Robinson to kick off the weekend with a party to launch her book, This is for the women who don’t give a fuck. She packed the house and inspired attendees to stand tall and live free from society’s expectations. She challenged us to actively demonstrate change.
With She Shreds, we want to continue creating an environment where local women feel welcome to experience Great Lakes surfing with no cost or equipment barrier and no prior experience required — just a willingness to try something new. For the first day of the event, we set up on Cherry Beach, just a stone’s throw from downtown Toronto. It began with an interactive yoga practice followed by a beach clean up to give back and an afternoon of surf and SUP classes led by ISA-certified coaches.
Next were workshops that educate and oriented both new and experienced surfers to Great Lakes culture, conditions, and equipment. Day two invited women into the surf shop to take part in a surf conditioning class, a wave forecasting seminar, and an introduction to surfboard design. We view this day of indoor classes as an important element in creating a community of informed surfers that are aware of the conditions, how waves form, and what boards and breaks are appropriate for their experience levels. Realizing that we are introducing a wave of new surfers into the lakes, we want to make sure that we pay deference to the existing surf community by giving these new surfers the tools they need to be safe, respectful, and responsible at local surf spots and beyond.
The final and arguably most important element of She Shreds is the opportunity to be part of a community. I was inspired to help start this program because I wanted to surf with more women. I knew so many who wanted to surf but didn’t. Maybe they didn’t have a board, they didn’t have a wetsuit, or they felt too intimidated by the male-dominated and often aggressive culture that can surround surf communities. Others were comfortable surfing the oceans but had never surfed on a lake and had no idea where to start. I wanted to mark their Great Lakes surf journey map with an ‘X’ to not only say, “Start Here,” but also “We’re all in this together.”
Written in collaboration with Jenn Dumaran.