The Stoke of Nereid Spirit in Ventura

The women, Nancy Cairns, Ashley Tindall, Kylee Brown, Lindsay Griffin and Meg Boyle ripping at the breaks in Ventura range in ages and levels of experience.

by Amy Brown

When Lindsay Griffin first started surfing back at age 12, there were far more men than women in the lineup when she paddled out at County Line, C Street and Silverstrand. “Most of the time I was the only girl,” she says. “Now there are so many amazing women surfers in Ventura.” If you go to one of the many surf breaks in the area these days, you’ll see that kind of diversity in the water—men and women, of all ages. Formerly seen as a male-dominated sport, more women than ever are out in the lineup now, and especially so in Ventura. And it’s not just here—in the last twenty years, the faces of the sport have been changing. In fact, starting in 2019, the World Surfing League became the first US global sporting league to offer equal pay to men and women competitors.

The women ripping at the wide range of breaks in Ventura range in ages and levels of experience, but share the common love of surfing, and the camaraderie of doing something challenging and rewarding—a unique and wonderful way of experiencing the ocean. There’s a steep learning curve in surfing, but most women surfers seem to be committed to helping and supporting one another. Some just have to go out in their backyard to get inspired to learn, like Mary Osborne, who learned to surf growing up at Solimar beach with her brothers. She went on to surf professionally at age 18, and became an internationally acclaimed champion long boarder. Today she is a Surf Ambassador for Patagonia and runs a successful local surf school, Mary Osborne Surf. There she teaches people of all ages, and even provides trips that include beachfront lodging, meals, professional surf instruction and daily yoga, both in Ventura and all over the world.

Her approach to teaching others the sport is unique. “I try to do things differently, I connect, talk about conditions, even before we get to the beach,” she says. “We deal with Mother Nature out there—that’s a big part of surfing.” She shares that her teaching is almost a therapeutic approach, especially if people have had trauma in their life. “I can read them, then it comes to how we’re going to work through it in the water. People are coming for an entire experience, they want to grasp the lifestyle, make changes in their lives, and be healthy, and to experience Ventura—it’s the whole package, in one lesson.”

Other surfers are from the east coast, but grew up California dreaming, wishing they could try the sport. Meg Boyle is a self-proclaimed “lake kid” from New Jersey, growing up wakeboarding and waterskiing with her dad, but had always wanted to try surfing. She moved to Ventura County recently and learned to surf just last year. She had a female friend who loaned her a wetsuit and a board and gave Boyle her first lesson at Mondos Beach last spring. “She literally stood out there in the water for hours, pushing me into waves and teaching me how to surf. I realized the nerves were all in my head! I just had fun and was instantly hooked,” says Boyle.

Griffin, a Senior Biologist/Project Manager at Rincon Consultants also teaches surfing, and has for the past ten years. “I hope that more women get into the sport and stick with it. It’s really amazing to see women out in the lineup doing their thing,” she says. When asked how to advise any woman who might have trepidation about learning to surf, she suggests, “Go out in the ocean and take a swim, and learn how the current feels and how the waves come and go. There is no rush to the finish line in surfing, it’s a personal journey, so take your time.”

Donna von Hoesslin-Pu’u has been lucky enough to format her life to allow her to surf every chance she gets, which is daily, when there’s surf. She had a mission in 2003 to create a business that would help connect people with the ocean, and her company Betty Belts, a popular Ventura store featuring custom sea glass and upcycled surfboard resin jewelry, does just that. As a member of 1% FTP (1% For The Planet), the organization gives back to a variety of ocean causes as well as innumerable local causes in and around Ventura.

Betty Belts also has a large, all-women surf team. “Mary Osborne was our first Team Rider in 2003. Back then, women’s surfing was just becoming something. It has, of course, since exploded and we’ve been supporting as much as we can all along the way,” says von Hoesslin-Pu’u. “Today we have a diverse group of local and faraway surfers, we’ve got groms, moms and grandmas on the team. I love that.”

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