Vanessa Yeager grew up in in sunny California which helped cultivate her love of surfing and yet, as a Latina, she realized there wasn’t a whole lot of diversity in that world. The physical education teacher and surf coach decided to be the change she wanted to see and founded Latinx Surf Club. “”As I grew up, I always wished to see surfers who looked like me,” Vanessa tells HipLatina. “And I knew they were out there but there wasn’t a space for us.” Vanessa recognizes that there are many barriers that people of color in general face when it comes to surfing – including access — and the club was founded with the intention to bridge the gap.
She originally created a group called Women Who Surf back in 2014 for local mothers who were interested in surfing. Just months after creating the group she was receiving more and more requests from female surfers who wanted to join the group. In 2017, she started Latinx Surf Club to offer a safe space for Latinx to interact, learn, and grow as surfers.
Now, as founder of Latinx Surf Club and Women Who Surf, Vanesa is trying to bring more gender and cultural diversity to surfing. Aside from teaching surf classes once a month, she organizes surf meet-ups as well as collects donations and distributes them out to the community. With the support of over 21,000 women, Latinx Surf Club has built a community and has become a resource for surfers of all levels.
“If you can see yourself in others, you can see yourself doing it too,” she says. “Especially for women, I felt there needed to be a space for them, without men, where they could safely gather and connect with one another.”
Even with groups like Latinx Surf Club, there is still the issue of access to the ocean and surfing gear. Vanessa strongly encourages anyone who is interested in the sport to reach out to her and join her groups, “our community works as a resource to ask questions, vent, or share resources related to surfing.”
As Vanessa explains, “the more diversity we have in surfing the more accessible the sport will be. Everyone is so supportive and positive and that really helps when starting something new. Having a positive, supportive community is life changing.”
Besides providing resources, Vanessa says the most rewarding part of this project is giving back to the community. “Passing on my love for surfing to women and my fellow Latinx is beautiful and for sure, my purpose.”
This work is truly a passion project as it doesn’t pay the bill — at least not yet. She currently works six days a week and hopes to find a way to eventually continue working with this community on another level, sharing she does it all for the love of the sport.
She says she wants nothing more than for the group to help give people their power back and show them how to gain confidence to follow their passion. “I do consider myself a coach at the end of the day and I feel so good watching people achieve their goals and share their love for the sport in these groups.”
A connection to the ocean is a gift that can greatly benefit the Latinx community. Vanessa says that these communities have grown into a family of supportive individuals who want to empower each other and she hopes this philosophy continues to reach more people around the world. “That is my dream,” says Vanessa, “little by little I feel it is happening now.”