Corinne Evans chats with Wahine Kai founder Aimee Vlachos and President Cathy Young.
Aimee, how many members does your club have?
AV: We have over 200 members in Wahine Kai, with over 120 members in the Orange County and Los Angeles Chapter, over 50 members in the North San Diego Chapter that started last year and over 30 members in the Maine Chapter.
How did the club come about?
AV: I founded Wahine Kai (Women of the Sea) in 2004 has a way to promote women’s surfing and encourage more women to experience surfing surrounded by supportive and empowering women. When I started surfing in high school, there were no other women in the lineup and it was a difficult experience. When I moved to Huntington Beach, California from Maine 10 years later, I really thought that I would find a surf community that was accepting of women surfers because Surf City is the mecca of surfing, but I realized that I was wrong. I kept meeting women who said that it was hard to learn how to surf or enter a lineup filled with men. They were looking for like-minded women that they could surf with and to feel empowered enough to try a new spot or go out on a bigger day. This led to my creation of Wahine Kai. The first year I organized all the events myself and ran the club out of my living room. During the second year, I formed a board of directors who helped me grow the club and attract new members. I will never forget our first meeting because about 10 of the women that came our still members today, 12 years later.”
Have you seen a increase in the group because women’s surfing is getting more press coverage?
AV: Yes, every time we get local media coverage in the newspaper or on the local TV station we get new members. But most of our members come from word of mouth. When a female surfer meets a Wahine Kai member and finds out about all of the cool trips and events we have as well as the amazing friendships that our members have with one another they are always drawn into wanting to join.
Cathy, what do you love about women’s surfing?
CY: The camaraderie that we have with one another. When I google the word camaraderie, the definition is ‘mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together”. I think that definition is spot on. When the members of Wahine Kai paddle out together we trust one another. We trust the fellow WK member in the lineup is going to be there for us if we need help. Surfing can be a dangerous sport and there is a comfort to know that someone is looking out for you after you take a huge spill over the falls or get taken out by the set wave. Friendship is made when the fellow WK member is there to cheer you on, give you a high five or just a simple smile after you have a nice ride on a wave. There are lulls between sets so that also leaves a lot of time for members to chat and talk about what is happening in their life which also increases the bond and friendships made out on the water.
What would you like to say to anyone wanting to learn to surf?
CY: You can do it! I have members you range from 18 to 70, who have been just learned to surf or who have been surfing for 40+ years, who are tall or short, slender or full figured, who are grandmas, moms, single, and who come from a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds. We have one member who is an astronaut, I kid you not….she is Virgin Galactic’s recently hired, Kelly Latimer. We have several doctors, accountants, sales women, information technology workers, healthcare workers, teachers and every other profession you can think of. We have one member who is a consultant in the fish industry so she travels the world talking to fishermen about sustainability in the fishing industry. So regardless of your age, body shape, career, or any other obstacle that you might think will get in your way of learning to surf you can overcome it. Even if you are land locked. Take a vacation to a beach where you can learn to surf….
What’s the best thing about being in a female only surf club?
CY: When you take men out of the equation It allows the women to focus on being supportive of one another. We can be open and honest about the trials and tribulations, rejoice about the achievements and accomplishments and let our “hair down” with the ease and comfort knowing that you are amongst friends.
For more info go to www.wahinekai.org