In the sublime realm where the water meets the horizon, a battle rages for the very soul of surfing. It is a struggle against the currents of racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny that plague our beloved sport. As a queer surfer, and the co-founder and CEO of Surf the Greats, my heart burns with a fervent desire to see a surfing world that embraces diversity and shatters the chains of discrimination. As we celebrate another Pride Month we see that most corporations continue to paint their logos with Pride colours without taking action, and that most surf brands quietly and anxiously go on about their business, counting the days until July 1st when they don't feel pressured to acknowledge the LGBTQIA+ community anymore. In light of this I write this manifesto urging these companies and individuals to rise above the status quo and create a tidal wave of inclusivity and support for all.
© Tyler Casey
The Sting of Homophobia
Imagine paddling into a welcoming lineup in Mexico, Brazil, or Costa Rica, only to be met with the harsh reality of homophobia. I have felt its grip firsthand, but will no longer allow hatred to exist at our surf breaks. Let us confront this injustice head-on, creating safe spaces where every surfer, regardless of their sexual orientation, can surf with pride.
© Lucas Meneses
Breaking the White Heteronormative Mold
The global surf culture has for too long been held captive by a suffocating white heteronormative narrative. It's time to unleash a tempest that reshapes the landscape, tearing down the barriers that exclude marginalized communities. Together we will forge a vibrant tapestry of voices, perspectives, and experiences, painting the water with the colours of the real faces of surf culture; the real surf pioneers; the surf communities the media never bothers to cover.
Montañita, Ecuador © Isabella Heeney
Coming Out: A Wave of Resistance
The battle for queer representation in professional surfing has left scars upon our souls. The fear of losing sponsorships has forced talented athletes to hide their true selves, suffocating their spirits beneath the weight of secrecy. We demand change. Let us create an industry that uplifts and embraces LGBTQIA+ surfers, empowering them to ride the wave of their authenticity without fear of retribution.
Luis Fernando © Heiko Bothe
The horizon gleams with the brilliance of queer surfers who have shattered boundaries and ignited a fire within us all. Matt Branson, Craig Butler, Cori Schumacher, Silvana Lima, Malia Manuel, Keala Kennelly, Tyler Wright, and Roxy Davis stand as beacons of courage and resilience. They have defied stereotypes, claiming victory in the face of adversity. Their triumphs are a testament to the power of bravery and authenticity.
Keala Kennelly © Lucas Murnaghan
Surfing Beyond Gender: Trans Inclusion
A wave of transphobia crashes against the shores of acceptance, threatening to drown the dreams of trans surfers. Yet, we will rise with unwavering determination to create a surfing world that embraces all gender identities. Let Sasha Jane Lowerson's story serve as a lighthouse, guiding us toward a future where trans surfers can surf with pride. Let the transphobic rants of the athletes who use their platforms for hate be the reminder of why this fight really matters for trans people and for all those who believe in basic human rights.
Christopher Street Liberation, 1969
Cultivating Queer Surf Culture
Yet, a flourishing queer surf culture persists, and decorates the walls of oppression with its resistance. Grassroots organizations like Queer Surf Club, Benny’s Club, Surfer Gays, SD Gay Surf, Gay Surfers, Coastal Queers, and Gay Surf Brazil carve out spaces of belonging and celebration. Let their ripples grow into waves that inspire more people to come out and more groups to assemble while reshaping the surfing landscape.
© Daniel Torobekov
Elevating Queer Free-Surfing Excellence
Let our applause echo across the shores for queer freesurfers like Rafael Nagolo and Sandy Coldura from the Philippines and Luis Fernando from Mexico, whose unique longboarding styles challenge convention and captivate our souls. Invitations to prestigious competitions like the Vans Joel Tudor’s Duct Tape Invitational in Mexico and South Africa signal a shift toward recognizing the diverse beauty and originality of the free-surfing community.
Rafael Nogalo © Mati Olivieri
Reflecting on Pride Month
Pride Month is not simply a rainbow-coloured celebration; it is a battle cry, a call to arms. The first Gay Pride was a bloody fight between drag queens and the police that went on for days. We must shift our focus from shallow slogans to the harsh realities faced by queer, trans, and BIPOC individuals who are still being persecuted and killed worldwide. We will channel our passion into actions that dismantle systemic oppression and create a sanctuary where love truly conquers hate.
The Stonewall Inn, NYC © @thestonewallinn
Amplifying LGBTQIA+ Voices
The silence of influential surf brands—including ones we carry—in the face of our struggles is deafening. We demand way more than silence. We demand more than token gestures. We demand authentic representation, recognition, and unwavering support throughout the year. It is time for the surfing industry to listen, amplify our voices, and stand shoulder to shoulder with us on the frontlines of change.
Mural of Marsha P Johnson
Proud Year Round
At Surf the Greats, our commitment to inclusivity is ingrained in our DNA. We stand proudly as a queer owned and operated business, with the goal of supporting and empowering minorities from day one. We hope to inspire surf companies worldwide to shed the shackles of performative support and embrace a culture of acceptance that not only begins with but transcends Pride Month.
As a queer surfer and shop owner who hasn’t seen much progress in the last decade since I entered the industry, I urge surf industry leaders to join us in creating a culture where diversity is recognized, celebrated and encouraged. Reshaping this industry will only come when each of us replaces words with action.
With this in mind, we ask you all to:
- Forge a culture of respect, acceptance, and unwavering support for LGBTQIA+ surfers.
- Confront and eradicate the systemic racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny within the surfing community, and condemn this behaviour when you see it in your partners and your peers.
- Provide sponsorship opportunities and a platform for LGBTQIA+ athletes to thrive.
- Amplify queer voices and stories, ensuring representation in media and marketing.
- Educate surfers and fans about the beauty and history of racial, gender, and sexual diversity in surfing and beyond.
- Support grassroots organizations that nurture a sense of belonging for queer surfers.
- Collaborate with LGBTQIA+ communities to create safe and inclusive surf spaces.
- Embrace the intersectionality of identities, celebrating the multifaceted tapestry of humanity within the surfing world.
- Hire BIPOC, queer and trans people of ALL shapes and sizes to model your products.
- Break your silence on social media and through your marketing channels during Pride Month.
Together, let us unleash a powerful wave of love, acceptance, and celebration, carving a path toward a surfing world in which every human can surf without fear or prejudice. The time for action is now.
With hearts ablaze and boards in hand, we ride proud.
CEO, Surf the Greats
Antonio is an ISA-certified surf coach, movement teacher and community builder. He was born and raised in Brazil and graduated from OCAD University with a degree in Graphic Design. Antonio is the co-founder and CEO of Surf the Greats and also teaches Carver Clinics in Toronto. Find him on Instagram.