On Episode 2 of The Drop In Sessions presented by Mermaid Gin, we chew the fat with Rhonda Harper, the enigmatic, vivacious, and unstoppable founder of Black Girls Surf, an international non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting black girls and women who have dreams of competing and developing careers as professional surfers.
The expression “force of nature” was probably invented with Rhonda in mind, with her scope of work wide ranging and far reaching. Since founding Black Girls Surf in 2004, the widespread tentacles of positive impact and change via the Black Girls Surfs camps and training initiatives, workshops, and surf therapy programmes, have meant that Rhonda has been a guiding force in helping many black girls and women across the globe, including the USA, Africa and the Caribbean, work towards their dreams of turning pro. Equally, Black Girls Surf has been a critical source of not just developing the participation of women of colour within surfing competitively, but also at an amateur level. It’s also impacted the overarching cultural narratives and the surf industry itself.
Rhonda’s nurtured talents of the likes of Khadjou Sambe, the brilliant surfer from beautiful Senegal who herself is a beacon of inspiration to many people worldwide and the first female surfer in Senegal. Likewise, athletes such as KK, Kadiata Kamara, in Sierra Leone and Hawaii-based Nique Miller have been guided under the wing of Rhonda, and we are seeing more women of colour within the surfing industry, within magazines, within movies, gaining sponsorships and of course, within lineups. It has been a sport, an industry, that wasn’t diverse, and presented a cookie cutter image of what a “surfer girl” looked like, alienating many girls and women around the world.
Rhonda has been steadfastly working to increase the representation of women of colour in surfing, achieving partnerships with the likes of Hurley, taking Black Girls Surf from strength to strength.
Rhonda’s life itself could read like a movie script. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, she’s a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, celebrity designer, journalist, and a corporate CEO. In this firey episode of The Drop In Sessions brought to you by Mermaid Gin, host Sophie Everard gets deep into conversation with Rhonda, learning about the incredible work, coupled with the often shocking battles she has faced to increase the representation of women of colour in surfing.
There are some profound explorations of the tough journey Rhonda has faced to help females athletes of colour break into pro-surfing, how she had to shatter the mould of the surf industry itself to achieve what she wanted to with Black Girls Surf and just how limiting the stereotypes were financially, culturally and socially to budding surfers. Rhonda discusses how she is working on bringing the African Triple Crown to the world, how she’s the “True Forrest Gump”, and that “there is a place in space for everyone”.
So, buckle up and grab a cuppa, because here’s an all-action podcast with the one and only Rhonda Harper!