On the shores of Lake Ontario, the Great Lakes surf scene continues to grow throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Since its inception, Surf the Greats has worked on bringing people together, in and out of the water, always keeping community in mind as a central value for the organization.
As we began to plan more and more events, we began to see and hear the need for a local event that would bring landlocked women in Toronto into the Great Lakes. We had the vision to create an experience that would give women access to surfing and hopefully inspire them to make space for surf and SUP in their busy, urban lives.
She Shreds was born in August 2017 when we rented a school bus to shuttle 50 ladies to the Scarborough Bluffs for a day of fun and fresh water. The following winter, we maintained the stoke and invited five professional female athletes to chat about the issues around women and boardsports. 150 women (and some men too) showed up to listen.
On the last weekend of September, as many were saying goodbye to summer, we ran the third event in the She Shreds series. After the excitement of the previous two events, we know that one day wasn’t going to be enough for the local lady sliders
and that there was more we could do to equip women to both begin, and continue, to surf.
From the beginning, our priority for She Shreds has been to continue creating and supporting an environment where local women feel welcome to experience Great Lakes surfing, with no cost or equipment barrier, and no prior experience required — just a willingness to try something new.
SHE SHREDS WEEKEND 2018
We launched the weekend by hosting Canadian surfer and writer Janne Robinson on the Toronto stop of her book tour for This is for the women who don’t give a fuck. Janne packed the house and inspired attendees to stand tall and live free from society’s expectations.
For the first day of the event, thanks to the support from MEC Outdoor Nation, we set-up on Cherry Beach, just a stone’s throw away from downtown Toronto. We welcomed the morning with an interactive yoga practice, led by Gabrielle Marquez, a leading movement instructor from our community, and followed it up with a beach clean-up, to give back to the natural environment. The afternoon was filled with surf and SUP classes, led by ISA-certified certified coaches.
Next, we wanted to offer workshops that would educate and orient both new and experienced surfers to Great Lakes culture, conditions and equipment. Day 2 of She Shreds—made possible by Rip Curl—invited women into Surf the Great’s surf shop and cafe to take part in a surf
conditioning class, a wave forecasting seminar and an introduction to surfboard design. We view this day of indoor classes as an important element in creating a community of informed surfers that are aware of the conditions, how waves form and what boards and breaks are appropriate for their experience levels. Realizing that we are introducing a wave of new surfers into the lakes, we want to make sure that we pay deference to the existing surf community by giving these new surfers the tools they need to be safe, respectful and responsible at local surf spots, and beyond.
The final, and arguably most important, element of She Shreds is the opportunity to be part of a community. I was inspired to help start She Shreds because I wanted to surf with more women. I knew lots of women who wanted to surf but didn’t because they didn’t know where or when to surf; they didn’t have a board or a wetsuit; or they felt too intimidated by the male-dominated—and at times aggressive culture—that can surround surf communities. Others were comfortable surfing the oceans but had never surfed on a lake and had no idea where to start. I wanted to mark their Great Lakes surf journey map with an ‘X’ to not only say, “Start Here,” but also “We’re all in this together.”
In our community, She Shreds is a time for surf, SUP and sisterhood. It’s when we reset and remind ourselves of why we love to surf on the Great Lakes. And, as we grow our tribe of lake surfers we remain mindful that the best communities are those which are welcoming, open, inclusive and representative. After all, We’re all in this together.