Like many locations in the world, Nicaragua’s surf scene is male dominated. As such, it can be difficult for women to break into the surf scene. Additionally, access to surfboards and bikinis can be challenging for young girls. In 2017, Isabelle Delfosse, an entrepreneur and surf instructor, and Catalina Chacón, a psychologist and master in gender studies, used their combined skills to found Sirenitas. Through Sirenitas, Bella and Cata use surfing, swimming, and education to inspire and empower local girls. Here, Bella and Cata share the mission of Sirenitas, the different programs they offer, and how people can support the social enterprise.
What is the mission of Sirenitas?
Sirenitas Surf Club is a social enterprise whose mission is to inspire and empower girls through surfing, swimming, and education. The program began with a few boards, three girls, and a lot of love and hope. Six years later, it’s expanded to a 10-month program for 15 joyous, adventurous, fear-defying girls each year.
How does the program work?
We currently have 15 girls enrolled. They take part in our 10-month program that runs from November through August. We take them surfing every two weeks and organize one life-planning workshop each month. We have girls that have been with us for six years. Typically, they enter around 10 years old and surf with us until they go to university. We also sponsor some of the girls to take part in English, computer, and Taekwondo lessons.
How are you empowering young women through surfing?
By creating a space for them to learn about, and get to know, the ocean in a safe and supportive way. We also give them tools to overcome their fears and enjoy the waves.
What different types of educational workshops do you offer?
Cata has created an incredible curriculum of life-planning workshops, ranging from healthy relationships to sexual education to goal setting activities. We wanted to offer more than just surf lessons and give the girls the tools they need to make their wildest dreams come true.
What has the reaction been like from the girls who have participated?
We’ve seen them grow more confident and shine in beautiful ways. You can read testimonials on our webpage. Girls have taken up the courage to challenge the status quo in their village.
Who runs your programs?
Bella (me) usually runs the surf sessions. I (Cata) run the workshops. But we wouldn’t be anywhere without our incredible team! We have an amazing local program coordinator who helps us with everyday logistics. We also work with a passionate local surf coach that takes over when Bella isn’t available. And of course, our devoted volunteer instructors help out in the water with every session. One of the moms, Johana, is also heavily involved in our program.
What is the surf culture like in Nicaragua?
As in most parts of the world, it’s very male dominant. Only boys were “allowed” to go surf, but the Sirenitas are creating a new standard within their community. Surf tourism is quite big in Popoyo, but that doesn’t mean surfboards and bikinis are easily purchased. We do get boards donated from time to time and have received a load of bikinis and wetsuits from our partner Roxy.
What different ways can people support Sirenitas?
What are your goals looking forward?
Our goal is to have sponsored Sirenitas become some of the first female Nicaraguan surf instructors in the area and compete internationally. We hope to acquire the necessary funding to ensure a successful educational experience for each girl and cover administrative costs. We also want to increase the participant reach in the Nicaraguan program and begin to expand internationally.