It’s a crisp fall morning at C-Street. A morning that forces you to remember autumn has a chilly edge to it. The surf isn’t impressive, but C-Street is reliable, and Danielle Lyons and her friends are on it. Lots of foam. Little waves. The vibes are high.
For Danielle, the ocean has always been part of her life. Her dad was a professional cliff diver in Jamaica, and her mom was a waterwoman, but it wasn’t until college that her Hawaiian roommate got her hooked.
“I got humbled pretty quickly,” says Lyons. “It’s a difficult sport.”
Lyons promptly became a student of surf culture and an even more committed ocean addict. As she got more deeply embedded in the surf community, becoming the President of the San Diego Surf Ladies, surfing continued its all-consuming gravitational pull on Lyons. Although the sport and culture had woven themselves into the fabric of her identity, she felt a nagging sense of disenchantment. She didn’t see herself represented in surfing’s imagery and storytelling. Lots of blonde. Lots of white skin. Lots of rail-thin. Not a lot of Danielle and women she relates to.
“I’ve always been inspired by surf films that I see and the lifestyle that you see portrayed,” says Lyons. “But I never saw any images of anybody that looked like me.”
In 2019, Lyons started working with Carve Designs, who shared her vision of celebrating diversity in surfing and adapting its associated imagery.
“What I appreciate about Carve is that it was founded by two friends who didn’t fit the typical surfer girl mold, and decided, ‘We need to change this. Not everybody looks like this,'” says Lyons. “They don’t just have stick-thin models. I’m not a body type that anybody would say, ‘Yeah, she’s a model. I’m not. I don’t fit the mold. I don’t fit any mold that a surfer should fit, but we’re perfectly imperfect. We’re just normal-bodied women, and I love that Carve supports that and promotes that in their imagery. Embracing all the sizes.”
While Lyons is excited about working with a group that identifies with her ethos, she’s also working hard to offer a voice and platform for a group of surfers that she believes has been voiceless for far too long.
“Now I’m focusing on another non-profit called Textured Waves, which is a collective with my girlfriends to promote diversity in surfing, particularly with women of color. We are trying to pull those people from out of the darkness and put some shine on them just by featuring them on our page and giving them the recognition we think they deserve and just putting them on a platform to elevate them.”
A quick scroll through Textured Waves’ Instagram and website validates the rich storytelling she and her friends are highlighting. And it has a powerful foundation and unifier: the ocean.
“Surfing is a moment frozen in time where you are just connected with the water,” says Lyons. “You’re riding down the face of energy that’s traveled millions of miles to get there, and you’re on it in that moment. Saltwater fixes. I need them. The ocean is happiness.”