Fierce Females In Formation: Black Girls Surf

Black girls surf? Totally. And Black Girls Surf founder Rhonda Harper is making sure that Black girls and women get the chance to compete professionally in this popular (although predominantly white male) water sport.

What was once a simple idea came to fruition when Rhonda noticed the lack of Black female representation in surfing. It was when Kadiatu “KK” Kamara, the first and currently only female surfer from Sierra Leone who turned to surfing to escape the devastating impact of civil war and the Ebola epidemic that swept her country, was turned away from a surfing contest.

Rhonda explains, “The lack of females who surfed within the diaspora was overwhelming. I felt by excluding KK from a contest simply because she was the only girl was unfair.”

Today, Black Girls Surf is a not-for-profit that runs fitness training camps for girls and women who want to surf competitively.


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A U.S. Coast Guard veteran, Rhonda has always been one with the ocean, catching waves for as long as she can remember. She knew there were other Black females like her with similar aspirations, although rarely saw them during her surf sessions.

The reason for the shortage? She expresses, “[This] can only be explained by people who promote the sport of surfing, be it the marketing departments, the associations, the contest series, etc. I’m no longer going to lay blame on the lack of participants but solely where it belongs, the decision makers. This can be proven by the overwhelming response we’ve had since the media first published our story. We’ve been here. We just weren’t showcased. If you look at Brazil, the Afro-Brazilian women really lead the charge, however, this was never shown to the masses. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”


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Rhonda wanted to be the mentor the industry didn’t have, and through Black Girls Surf decided she would provide the coaching and resources to encourage other Black female surfers to pursue their dreams of becoming pro.

But how does she plan to encourage more Black girls and women to surf? “Every day, I speak to women around the world who are interested in surfing but aren’t quite sure how to navigate lessons, buying a surfboard and wetsuit, etc. This will continue. I take the time to make sure I answer every text, email and DM. Making myself available has encouraged so many women to get in the water.”

Black Girls Surf’s mission will be achieved “when all of my girls are sponsored and thriving in a sport they love.”


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On a personal level, Rhonda continues to get on the surfboard because of the sense of “peace I feel when I’m out there alone with my thoughts.”

For anyone who wants to try surfing but have never been on a board before, Rhonda advises, “Never compare yourself to anyone’s surfing level or skill set. This is an individual sport and you have to find what works and doesn’t work for you. Have fun. Enjoy the ride.”

To learn more or register for a BGS surf camp, go to Currently, programs are being offered in California, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. Black Girls Surf is also now casting stunt women, actors, and models all over the world. Check out the BGS website for more information.

Photo: Lauren Cook