Even in the post-rain evening chill, the vibe at Rockaway Beach Surf Club was warm and welcoming. As everyone gathered for the 5th annual Women’s Surf Film Festival, there were smiles all around. Since it’s organized by Rockaway surf mama and founder of Lava Girl Surf, Davina Grincevicius, anticipation for this event had been building both locally and abroad. There’s simply no other female-powered surf gathering like this one.
Beyond showing that there’s more to women’s surfing than sun glistening off our bums, the Women’s Surf Film Festival explores the deeper connection between lady wave riders and the ocean. As more females get into surfing, especially in New York City, it’s important to have events like this that celebrate women’s strength, creativity, and community.
After a summer day of surfing Rockaway Beach, everyone dusted off the sand and headed a few blocks inland for the start of the festival. You’d think by the cozy, muraled space, abuzz with tanned and tattooed surfers, that we were at a beachside bar in Hawaii. But the subway rolling overhead (the Surf Club is nestled right under the A train) is a reminder that we’re just outside the city.
On both Friday and Saturday night, films about female surfers made mostly by female filmmakers captivated the audience. We commiserated about cold water surfing in A Woman’s Guide to Surfing New Zealand. We watched Leah Dawson’s groovy style as she pumped along Austin’s man-made wave in The Legend of the Iron Seahorse, aAnd got wrapped up in the euphoric waves of Sri Lanka in SEA LONE. Beautiful underwater photography by Sarah Lee lined the walls of the Surf Club, so visitors were immersed in salt water even when ducking inside to grab a beer.
The highlights were Alison’s Adventures Maldives, in which explorer/environmentalist Alison Teal, with pink surfboard in hand, reveals the mountains of plastic on Trash Island in the Maldives. It offers a dose of reality and a reminder to find a solution to our dependence on plastic. The crowd pleaser, though, was Pear Shaped, which gave guys and girls alike a good laugh. Even thinking about it just makes me smile. Every single woman can relate to the realities of exposed tampon strings, bathing suits that are seemingly made to reveal your nipples, salt water that pours from your face at inopportune times, and peeling off a wetsuit with no grace at all.
Whether they showcased badass cold water shredding, smooth footwork on rolling waves, or focused on ocean plastic pollution, all the filmmakers explore our connection to the water and the natural bond that ties water women together. Though surfing is often pursued as a solo sport by men, women’s surfing has a special flare for camaraderie. The whole weekend of films showcased just that. The rides feel longer when someone cheers you on. The big days are less daunting with some encouragement, and wipeouts are a lot funnier when someone’s there to pick the seaweed from your hair.
The festival weekend ended with an all-girl paddle out Sunday morning. Since the waves were small and the lineup was packed, it wasn’t easy to get a ride in. Still, the energy was upbeat and positive, which tends to be the case when there are women on the water. As a local surfer in Rockaway said, “The more girls on the water, the better!”
Note: If you missed it, not to worry. The Women’s Surf Film Festival is heading East and will show, for the first time, in Montauk on August 12 at The Montauk Beach House.