Empowering Girls through Surf and Yoga: Phillip Island Boardriders Club Launches New Program

Phillip Island Boardriders Club (PIBC), one of Australia’s oldest continuously running surfing clubs, challenged the stereotype of surfing being a “boy’s sport” by creating a pilot program for women and girls. The PIBC Surf & Yoga Program for Girls aimed at increasing the participation of girls who surf and, by doing so, aimed to increase participation in competitions and memberships while establishing friendships and essential community connections. PIBC partnered with local surf schools to provide coaching by females for females and tailored the program to individual needs. PIBC also teamed up with local sports providers and governing bodies to show the Club’s female members, mothers, daughters, and sisters that surfing is for everyone, regardless of age and ability.

Breaking the Mold: Phillip Island Boardriders Club Launches Women and Girls Surf Program to Challenge Stereotypes

Cultures in sports clubs reflect the history and values of their community. Cultures can evolve in response to changing societal values and norms. PIBC wanted to challenge the stereotype of surfing being a “boy’s sport” by creating a pilot program for women and girls. There was an unspoken fear with female surfers, no matter what level they surfed. A worry that they could be the only woman or girl in the line-up, and it was still a “boy’s sport.” After receiving funding from Change Our Game Community Activation Grants Program and Bass Coast Shire Council Community Grants Program, PIBC set to change this perception that surfing isn’t just a boy’s sport by providing an opportunity for women and girls to participate in surfing while also empowering women and girls within their local community.

Launching the Phillip Island Boardriders Club Surf & Yoga Program for Girls

The PIBC Surf & Yoga Program for Girls was developed under the leadership of President Hannah Eisen, who had the full support of the committee and other women surfers. As the second female president in the Club’s 60-year history, Hannah recognized the significance of providing opportunities for women and girls to participate in the sport of surfing. Hannah was thrilled to offer this program to the women of Phillip Island, as it would enable them to take advantage of a unique opportunity to learn and improve their surfing skills while also engaging in yoga sessions.

The program aimed to create increased engagement of women and girls in sport and active recreation, remove barriers to participation by reducing the cost of intermediate and advanced coaching and create a safe and inclusive program.

The creation of the PIBS Surf and Yoga program for girls involved the active participation of community members who played a pivotal role in bringing the program to fruition. The program enlisted the support of Jess Laing from Girls on Board surf coaching, who provided coaching to beginners, Glyndon Ringrose, who coached advanced surfers, and Dominique Salerno, who led the yoga sessions. Additionally, Emily Scott, the club secretary, played an instrumental role in coordinating the program. 

“The PIBC Surf & Yoga Program for Girls helped them feel comfortable, powerful, and confident. Additionally, learning how to surf and practising yoga provides a fun way to get a full-body workout while teaching important balance, breathing, and coordination skills.”

Hannah commented.  Participants were also given access to high-performing women and a chance to share experiences that women and girls have had through their involvement in surfing.

PIBC Surf & Yoga Program for Girls Leads to Improved Participation and Inclusivity, Building a Positive and Supportive Community

PIBC saw improved participation opportunities for women and girls in the local area, as women’s current membership level is significantly less than their male counterparts. By running a targeted training program to increase girls’ confidence to participate in club competitions, they enjoyed social interactions associated with the Boardriders club, improved health and well-being, and built skills that can be utilised in everyday life.

The program also enhanced the clubs understanding of gender equality practices, celebrated women and girl’s participation and leadership examples at the club level and built capacity within the community for the next women leaders in surfing. There was also an increase in participation and entry of women and girls in local, state and national competitions from the Bass Coast and surrounding community clubs.

Clubs that embrace diversity and inclusivity are more likely to adapt their traditions and cultures to reflect these values and promote a welcoming and supportive environment for all members – this is something President Hannah Eisen was striving to create.

Hannah Eisen expressed her excitement to offer this opportunity to the women of the club and how humbled she has been seeing so many girls getting out in the water

“Offering this program has built a positive and inclusive community of surfing girls and women. With the tailored surf coaching program including surf photography and video analysis, plus yoga sessions to hone flexibility and breathing technique, we sure did see the progression in the surfing ability and confidence gained in the participants,” said Hannah Eisen

“The positive effect in the community has been more than I could have wished. Friendships have been made, courage gained, and confidence has grown – on and off the board.”

Participants, like Up-and-Coming Junior Surfing Champ Abbey Clarke, have spoken about how amazing it is to see all the girls out in the line-up, cheering each other on and getting feedback to improve.

“Seeing all the girls out in the lineup, young or older, cheering each other on and getting the best feedback to improve has been amazing. Having Glyndon Ringrose, a local legend giving advice is such an honour”

The PIBC Surf & Yoga Program for Girls created a positive and inclusive community of surfing girls and women, building friendships, courage, and confidence. The program introduced like-minded friends who are also down-to-earth, adventurous, and, most importantly, love water. It helped girls to feel comfortable, powerful, and confident. The program created pathways designed to encourage new participants and keep women and girls involved in surfing both in and out of the water retained current surfing members and kept them engaged, created pathways for supporting, mentoring, coaching, and encouraged Women and Girls to be active in the sport, and explored how boardrider clubs could build capacity and increase participation in their club.

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