Photo Credit: Movimento Surfistas Negras
Black Women Surfers In Brazil Thrive As They Fight For More Visibility
In the 90s, Erica Prado chose to be a professional surfer. She found out that she would be an exotic presence in the surfing world, not only in Brazil, but globally. However, Prado has not felt intimidated. She was the only Afro-Brazilian professional surfer that almost won the world surfing championship— reaching second place twice— and she stayed among the world’s surfing elite for 10 years.
Now, she leads a movement called Movimento Surfistas Negras (Black Women Surfers Movement), which aims to give more visibility to professional Black women surfers in the country.
Names like Gabriel Medina, and Italo Ferreira, who won the Gold Medal in Tokyo Olympic Games this year, are known worldwide. However, when it comes to Afro-Brazilian surfers, this term does not have a significant resonance.
This was also the case for Erica Prado, whose rise in the sport was far from being easy.
Born in Itacaré, she had problems getting sponsorship, although she was a very successful surfer.
“When I was in the water, my concern was not to lose at first. I needed to give joy to people who believed in me. The hard part was being strong when your head wasn’t right. The lack of sponsorship affects the athlete. Sometimes I had to spend 48-hours on the road, sleeping in a bus station and saving money to eat,” she told o Globo, a Brazilian newspaper.
According to Prado, the white blonde surfer stereotype forced the doorts to close to Black women in surfing to get sponsorship for decades, mainly when it is related to surf wear brands.
“This stereotype of the white surfer still remains. Most people don’t think of a Black person on a surfboard,” she said.
However, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t Black women in surfing.
“There have always been Black surfers (male and female), but people have made them invisible. Now, there is more space, the doors are opening. Brands sponsoring Black athletes out there now. We have evolved and conquered our space.”
Feeling the need for changes, Prado decided to create an Instagram page called Movimento Surfistas Negras in 2019 to promote diversity and better opportunities for Black women surfers in Brazil.
“Surfing is a sexist and racist sport, although many people in this sport deny that,” Prado told a local paper in Brazil.
Currently, Movimento Surfistas Negras Instagram page has 10,000 followers and brands are starting to pay attention to the Afro-Brazilian movement.
Because of her success, she was invited to host a TV Show that depicts Black women who surf. Titled ‘Janaínas Deusas do Mar’ (Janaínas -The Sea Goddess), it will be broadcast on the Brazilian Channel Off.
Erica Prado, Tilamarri Santos, Yanca Costa, Suelen Naraisa and Nuala Costa will be the stars of the series. Five episodes will show the trajectory of five Black Brazilian surfers, showing how they work in their respective communities and the recognition they obtained in and out of the sea.
“Girls need this representation. I received a lot of messages on Instagram from women from all over Brazil saying that the page had motivated them to start surfing. Many girls said they had never seen a Black girl surfing. This is very serious, as there are many Black surfers around the world surfing well, whether she is a free surfer or a competitor. I believe that the Black Surfers Movement is already fulfilling this role of giving visibility and giving birth to these girls,” Prado told Rico Surf Magazine.