Born and raised in Portugal, Susana lives in the beautiful city of Lisbon, in a 15-minute walk from the beach. A recent discovery of surfing has changed Susana's life for the best. Now a devoted surfer, she runs an Instagram-based all-female surf and skate community in her hometown, eager to meet and inspire those alike.
How did you get into surf?
I have wanted to surf since I was a teenager. It did not happen for many reasons, and as years went by, I always thought it was too late to start surfing.Then, in 2020, after months of lockdown, I was getting crazy at home and thinking that my summer holiday, as I had known it for years, would have to be different. Something made me start looking for surf camps online. After an intense search, I found a surf camp in Aljezur. An all-included surf camp, precisely what I wanted!
I told my children, then 17 and 18, that we would go to a surf camp. They thought I had lost my mind! And they also felt slightly uncomfortable as going to a surf camp with their mum wasn't cool… But we went anyway! It was a huge challenge, and I could only stand on the board on the fourth day! Every muscle, bone, skin cell, and hair was aching, but it was so worth it!
I then persisted like crazy, having lessons and surfing whenever possible. I became healthier and stronger to continue. I improved my diet, physical condition and, consequently, happiness!
I'm not much of a surfer, a slow learner, and a 50yo body does not learn as a 20 or 30 one, but all that matters is that surfing makes me the happiest I've ever been.
What do the words Women of the Wave mean to you?
To me, the words Women Of The Wave mean empowering women and giving them a voice. It means acknowledging that women are part of the surfing world, which is still very sexist.
- The connection with the ocean and nature.
- The sense of community amongst the girls I surf with.
- The empowerment I feel as a 50-year-young woman, learning the most challenging sport I've ever tried, and waking up every morning wanting to go surfing more and more, even if it's hard (but always fun).
Who is your surf inspiration?
From a young age, I've admired many professional surfers and their inspiring stories. These days I deeply admire Yolanda Hopkins, this strong and amazing Portuguese surfer who had to fight like crazy to get where she is.
You know what? I am also my own inspiration. I'm proud of never giving up, even if many people around me call me crazy and ask me if I don't think I'm old enough to have more sense and try sports like golf or padel tennis… Ahahahaha, my answer is NO!
What would be your advice to a rookie surfer/ someone who starts out in surf?
Find the right surf school and board, surf whenever you can, and don't give up. There will be moments when you think you will never get there; it will be hard. But all the joy surfing brings into your life will be worth it!
What barriers did you experience in surfing?
The usual barriers women have in society. In general, we have to be better than men to be accepted.
I've seen disapproving looks, like, "what are you doing here in "our" peak?" I heard things like: "If you are not good enough in the green waves, you should not be here." I've had a lot of men dropping in my waves as if I was invisible.
I usually ask them if they were born knowing how to surf. It's amazing how people forget their own journey.
This is a generalisation, of course. I also surf with amazing and educated guys and some women who "were born knowing how to surf". ;)
I usually give this example: When you are on the road driving, and there's a driving student in front of you, there are two kinds of people: the ones that shout and honk because the student is slow or making some mistakes and the ones that understand they have to be patient. The road is for everyone—the students, those who just got their driver's licence, and those who have been driving for years.
How do you think these barriers could be overcome?
Through projects like Women Of The Wave that bring global awareness to women's different needs compared to men's. And also local surfing communities for women, supporting them daily.
We learn in a different way, we are not as competitive, and most of us have nothing to prove to anyone. We just wanna have fun!
And, of course, by stepping up, publicly speaking about all the barriers women must overcome.
What is your proudest moment that you remember in surfing?
In June 2022, I created the "Surf Sisters Lisbon" Instagram page, a surfing community for women in Lisbon, Portugal. I did it out of a sense of community need because I realised that many women didn't have a buddy to surf with.
Less than one year later, we have more than 1000 women on Instagram and more than 100 women in our WhatsApp group. And this is only in Lisbon.
During these months, we went surfing together, skateboarding, went to countless events and even tried other sports. We made mini surf trips, had surf and skate lessons, arranged dinners, and discovered people with whom we identify in a safe and judgement-free environment.
I met incredible women, and I've been thanked so many times for creating this community. It fills my heart knowing that we all need it.
I used to work for big multinational companies, and since the first week I started surfing, I knew my life would change and that I would have to work on something related to surf.
Two and a half years after I started surfing, I have my surf project, and everything is aligned so that I can live my dream life.