Paying it Forward – Surf Sisters Love

For the past few weeks I have been meeting some chicas while surfing. It may have something to do with my new mantra of paying the surf stoke forward. Now usually I am a very introverted surfer. I know many people find that hard to believe since I am Miss Chatty everywhere I go: on the beach, behind the chair, out at night… but something happens when I paddle out; I just go quiet. My brain stills and it becomes just Mother Ocean and me, all in our own beautiful world. I still chat with people I know but I NEVER talk to others, and according to my surf sisters, I’m even a little stand-offish. I leave all that socializing and chatting to Piper and Pinkie, the resident social butterflies. They are the talkers and smilers. Even Pots is always good to chat up a hot guy on the break. Not me. I sit with Mother Ocean and chill, focusing until I catch my first wave, maybe two. Then I breathe and take a look at the social scene. But lately I haven’t been checking out the hot guys (well, maybe a few) but I have noticed other women trying to surf and occasionally have paddled up to them to offer words of encouragement and the odd tip.

Yesterday I saw a woman who was attempting to surf with a guy (I assume it was her boyfriend or friend) and she was off on the shoulder working up the courage to paddle for a wave. A few times she did paddle and missed and a few times she got pounded. But I also noticed that she hung in there and paddled back out. The guy… well, he was kinda doing his own thing.

Sidebar on the topic “Surfing with Guys” Here is the thing: surfing with dudes is a totally different vibe. When it comes to surfing, men and women learn this sport completely differently. As a woman, NEVER EVER have your husband/boyfriend teach you to surf; you will quit before you even start and you will have the worst experience EVER! Unless you are both learning together and taking lessons, then it can be a positive experience. Even going surfing with your buddies can be challenging if they are critical. Men and women approach the sport in different mindsets and have different fears, so what makes a woman nervous on the water doesn’t resonate with a man; he doesn’t have the same fear. Once you have learned to surf, go surfing with the guys and kick their asses. But it’s still not as much fun as surfing with your girlfriends because that brings a whole different energy; we laugh and encourage each other, plus support each other if we can’t catch a wave. I think it’s because we are all secretly mermaids and when we are in the ocean together, the harmony flows.  

I watched this woman for a while. She was strong and could paddle and hang onto her board, but she was sitting in the wrong spot and I wanted to help her. So I sucked up being an introvert and paddled over, introduced myself and asked her if she would be open to a few tips. Her face lit up like a light bulb. I explained that she was sitting too far away from the peak of the wave and as a result, was missing the waves she was paddling for. She explained that she was too scared to sit with the other surfers and did not want to be in anyone’s way. We chatted for a while and I totally understood, explaining how sitting in the lineup can be intimidating but it’s part of the surfing process and as long as she didn’t drop in on anyone, then she would be okay. We paddled over to the lineup and after a few tries she caught a great wave. When she paddled back her eyes gleamed with surf stoke and she gave me the best high five! We surfed in silence after that with the occasional cheer for each other. At the end of the session she was very grateful and said she had never been so stoked. She asked me to teach her again but I declined, recommending an amazing female surf instructor for her to book with instead.

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Here are my two recommendations for awesome surf instructors:

Risa Mara, at Surf it Out is based in Sayulita. She will take you to multiple breaks and get you up and riding plus she has the greatest laugh and is so upbeat and positive that it is impossible not to love her and surfing.

Kristy Murphy Siren Surf Adventures: If you want to take a week and really do it with some great chicks then book with Kristy, she has camps in multiple places and will get you up and surfing for sure

Kemi Vernon, now she might kill me for putting her in this blog as she is retired from teaching and now works as a photographer. BUT…on occasion she will instruct. HOWEVER, she will only instructor for women that are intermediate surfers. So you have to be able to surf, handle your board, paddle etc. Kemi, changed the way I surfed in two hours, she is intense, hard core and will kick your ass. But, she has a gift of explaining how to surf to a women that just clicks. She will keep you safe but push you to the next level. Kemi is the instructor you go to when you are ready to take your surfing to the next level.

Five Great Surf Tips for Women Learning to Surf:


  1. You must learn to walk before you can run! You must learn how to paddle before you can catch a wave. Learn to paddle properly, how to sit up, turn your board and how to turtle roll.
  2. Read the surf etiquette so you know the rules and if you don’t understand them, ask your surf instructor or another surfer. Check out this link to surf etiquette  .
  3. Find a great female surf instructor. How do you do that? Read reviews and email past clients. When you find her, book three lessons over a one-week period and go every other day. Practice what she teaches you on the off day. Pay in advance so you will not cancel. You will be sore but by the end of the week you will be riding waves and not white water.
  4. Hold onto your board at all times. Never kick out your board or jump off. Just sit down instead. If you are caught in the inside and getting pounded, hold onto the tail or nose but don’t let go of your board. Your board can kill someone so it’s your responsibility to hold onto it at all times. (If you lose your board, don’t freak out, it happens. Just get to it as best you can and look around to make sure it hasn’t hit anyone).
  5. If you get caught on the inside don’t panic and don’t fight to get back out. Relax, save your energy, wait for the set to end and then paddle out on the in-between.

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Just keep doing it! You will love it and hate it. It will thrill you and scare you but surfing is the most amazing sport you will ever do. It’s not just a sport it’s a way of life!


To learn more about Piper, Pinkie, Pots and the surf sisterhood, check out these books. They will make you laugh, cry and inspire you to ride the waves: “In Search of Cap’n Tim” and “Finding Cap’n Tim”

My Conclusion

As I walked up the trail back to my car I realized that the gift was watching another woman have surf stoke. I decided in that moment that if I could help any women have surf stoke then it was my role to pay that stoke forward. So I have been practicing paying it forward and it has been the most amazing experience. I encourage all female surfers to watch out for the new mermaids that are trying their best to surf the waves and offer them tips and encouragement. If we pay the surf stoke forward then all the women on the water will flow in harmony together and all that great karma will come back to you at some point! Great karma could mean great waves in the years to come, which just means more surf stoke for everyone! Win-win!


Marjie Martini

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