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Sri Lankan Women’s Quiet Surfing Revolution

On every platform this topic has been discussed on, the sentence “When I surf I feel strong” has made its appearance; but what does it actually mean and why is it important?

It all started out when a little Sri Lankan girl’s dream had finally come true.

Shamali Sanjaya is now a woman who revolutionized a big part of the Sri Lankan community of women by believing in her dream and actually trying to make it happen.

Ever since she was little, Sanjaya would see her dad and brother go surfing wanting to join them with her whole heart, but due to her conservative culture, she was not allowed to do so.

Sanjaya’s ambition was so strong that she managed to beat her nation’s conservative mentality and in 2018 she set up Sri Lanka’s first all-female surfing club in Arugam Bay where she would watch the guys in her family do the thing she wanted to do the most when she was little. She believes that a hobby shouldn’t be stopped by some cultural circumstances, especially when they are gender differentiating based.

Now, at 34, Sanjaya is a proud mom of two beautiful children and another one on the way and is enjoying the waves as much as she’s always dreamed of.

At first, after both her parents had died, her brother who was meant to take care of her and their sister, didn’t agree with Sanjaya’s idea on this sport meant for men and for female tourists only because he thought a woman’s place is inside the house, but she didn’t give up. By also getting more and more women interested in this hobby that now seems to not be a reason to be afraid anymore, she managed to found her surfing club and also in 2020 she participated in Sri Lanka’s first women-only category in a national surfing competition. A lesson everyone could take from this courageous woman's story is to never give up on your dreams and to never stop hoping and trying.

By following her dream Sanjaya got other women like her to join the community and to find an activity that would make them feel powerful and worth it. The hobby itself, surfing, is a hobby that makes you feel like you’re on cloud 9.

Sanjaya and another woman interested in getting the community of the surfing club even bigger, went from house to house talking to families about the girls in every home interested in this activity and encouraging them to let the girls try the free surfing courses they were able to do.

Firstly, some families were reluctant and even the police were being suspicious asking the coordinators of this well-intended club if they were drugging or giving the girls alcohol.

The truth is, that it’s not really easy to start something so different in such a conservative country and culture, but Sanjaya managed to do that and embraced her femininity and her rights through something that she loves to do and that makes her, as well as many other women, feel powerful and appreciated.

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