Vanessa Yeager grew up in sunny California which helped her cultivate her love of surfing and yet, as a Latina, she realized that there wasn’t much diversity in this world. . The physical education teacher and surf coach decided to be the change she wanted to see and founded the Latinx Surf Club. “Growing up, I always wanted to see surfers who looked like me,” says Vanessa. HipLatina. “And I knew they were there, but there was no room for us.” Vanessa recognizes that there are many barriers people of color in general face when it comes to surfing – including access – and the club was founded with the intention of bridging the gap.
She initially created a group called Women Who Surf in 2014 for local mothers interested in surfing. Only a few months after the creation of the group, she received more and more requests from surfers who wanted to join the group. In 2017, she created the Latinx Surf Club to provide a safe space for Latinx to interact, learn and grow as surfers.
Today, as the founder of the Latinx Surf Club and Women Who Surf, Vanesa tries to bring more cultural and gender diversity to surfing. In addition to teaching surf lessons once a month, she organizes surf meetings, collects donations and distributes them to the community. With the support of over 21,000 women, Latinx Surf Club has built a community and has become a resource for surfers of all skill levels.
“If you can see yourself in others, you can see yourself doing it too,” she said. “Especially for women, I felt there had to be a space for them, without men, where they could gather and connect in safety.”
Even with groups like Latinx Surf Club, there is always the problem of access to the ocean and surf equipment. Vanessa strongly encourages anyone interested in the sport to contact her and join her groups, “our community functions as a resource for asking questions, evacuating or sharing surf related resources”.
As Vanessa explains, “the more diversity we have in surfing, the more accessible the sport will be. Everyone is so supportive and positive and it really helps when you start something new. Having a positive and supportive community changes life.
Besides providing resources, Vanessa says the most rewarding part of this project is giving back to the community. “Passing on my love of surfing to women and my fellow Latinx people is wonderful and of course my goal. “
This job is truly a passion project because it doesn’t foot the bill, at least not yet. She currently works six days a week and hopes to find a way to continue working with this community on another level, sharing that she does everything for the love of the sport.
She says she wants nothing more than the group to help empower people and show them how to gain the confidence to follow their passion. “I consider myself to be a coach at the end of the day and I feel so good watching people achieve their goals and share their love for the sport in these groups. “
A connection to the ocean is a gift that can greatly benefit the Latinx community. Vanessa says these communities have grown into a family of supportive individuals who want to empower themselves and she hopes this philosophy will continue to reach more people around the world. “This is my dream,” said Vanessa, “little by little I feel like this is happening now.”