After the success of Surf Girls Jamaica we wanted to chat to another female surfer from the Caribbean, to find out what the women’s surf community is like out there and so we got in contact with Chrissana Wilmot aka SandyCurlz, a surfer and writer from the Caribbean.
Name: Chrissana Wilmot (nee Harewood)
Years surfing: 12
Social Media: @sandycurlz
Chrissana, tell us about your journey into surfing, how did you begin riding waves?
I am the proud product of two Caribbean islands, Trinidad and Barbados so being a beach baby was and still is, part of my DNA. For as long as I’ve known myself, I’d always been drawn to surfing, but the closest I’d gotten to it was bodyboarding on weekends on a popular beach on the North Coast of Trinidad (thanks Papa Bear). Fast forward a few years later, and I’d found a local surf shop/boutique that was about to start a surf school, and I’m pretty sure I was the first person to sign up! I struggled for weeks on a 6’4 thruster, and for a very minute period, I’d considered giving up. However, I didn’t because I knew that my heart belonged to this sport long before I was able to execute any part of it. I’m so glad I persisted though because the blessings it has brought me are incalculable!
What is the surf scene like Jamaica where you are based but also in Trinidad where you were born?
The surf scene in both islands are pretty similar. Trinidad has a small but dedicated surf community, but Jamaica’s is even smaller. So small that there are no surf shops on the island. In both islands, many of the surfers have known each other since childhood. There’s a level of camaraderie and inclusion that’s seamlessly extended to newcomers of the sport; as well as to visitors of our breaks. Both islands have so few surfers that crowding isn’t a problem at any of the breaks. We’re pretty spoiled where that’s concerned!
We have seen the Surf Girls Jamaica and were blown away by the women’s surf community, the sisterhood and the support. How important is it to have that connection?
My sister-in-law Imani did a good job of mobilising while ensuring the continuity of the female population of the sport in Jamaica. As you saw in the film, women in Jamaica face multiple levels of hardship, and it was, and still is important to create that atmosphere of healing and safety for each other. For many of the women, if nothing else, the group gave them that one thing to look forward to every week and that was cemented very organically as time went by. And even though life has gotten in the way where the original group is unable to gather as consistently as we would like, we all know there’s always a home for us by the sea.
When you first learnt how to surf, was there a big community or have you seen it grow over time?
So I learnt to surf in Trinidad where the surf culture was small and intimate. The majority of the surfers I’d met when I first came on the scene had already known each other from childhood. At local events, you’d come to expect the same faces with a few non-surfing aficionados sprinkled in-between. With the advent of locally held international contests along with press surrounding charitable humanitarian events like Surfing for Autism and scouting drives for new talent, there has been an increase in the local surfing population. We also have a new generation of frothing groms who are the offspring of the longstanding members of the community.
Additionally, my friend Chris along with his wife Manuela, have a phenomenal non-profit called Waves For Hope which uses surfing as therapy for at-risk youth in their coastal village of Balandra. Through their work, they’ve consistently exposed at least 2 dozen kids to the sport. With all that, I can safely say that community growth and continuity is safe.
What has been the positive thing to come from you learning to surf?
Becoming a surfer and the dynamic shifts in my life have definitely been linear! I met my spouse of 11 years through surfing. The connections I’ve made within the surfing community, especially with other women wave riders, have been the most invaluable and enriching experiences I could ever fathom. Surfing was and still is, the vibe that helped me find my tribe. Opportunities to travel and explore were also kick-ass perks that certainly would not have come to easily to me if it weren’t for this sport.
How has surfing shaped your life, has it made you connect with nature, your friends, family, or yourself more?
This is like trying to count my blessings when there’s so much to count! My life now is so simple and yet more beautiful in ways I couldn’t imagine. All of those things you just mentioned: nature, family, friends and myself, are all tightly interwoven by the thread that is surfing. It offered me an opportunity to step out of the ordinary, and I’m so much more centred within, developing an awareness of myself which ultimately, has trickled down into my other relationships.
The world of full of people wanting to learn to surf, but who fear the process. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to learn to ride the waves?
Just go for it! Start small by learning on as big of a board you can get your hands on and fool around in whitewater. You’ll more than likely get a few bumps and bruises along the way, but wear them as a badge of honour. Surfing is such a special sport that allows us to create unique bonds with our environment and each other that it’s worth every bit of fear and struggle we’ll experience in the beginning. It’s like the saying goes “If it scares you and excites you at the same, it probably means you should do it!”.
I surf because…I was meant to. The waves called my name for years, and when I was finally able to answer the call, I felt like my true life began. For me, surfing and serendipity are synonymous.
If I could surf anywhere in the world, it would be…Siargao, Philippines.
Sisterhood in surfing to me means…Encouraging each other in and out of the water. It means feeling so fulfilled after every session that you feel like you can take over the world with each other. Lastly, it also means having the ability to not take our worries too seriously in those shared moments because love and laughter are existing in such abundance.