Surfing Through The Odds: a documentary about women surfing in São Tomé e Príncipe | Photo: Shutterstock

The short documentary "Surfing Through the Odds" tells the story of young African girls fighting for female empowerment through surfing.

The project also includes producing the first photo collection of black women surfing available in a global commercial image bank, whose proceeds will go directly to SOMA, an NGO based in São Tomé and Príncipe.

The second smallest country in Africa is a natural paradise.

Still, it is also a place where 67 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and only 34 percent of women reach upper secondary schools.

In this context, SOMA Surf was founded in 2020.

It is now the protagonist of a global project that aims to raise awareness of gender and race inequality in surfing.

SOMA Surf: the surf NGO is empowering São Tomé e Príncipe girls and women through wave riding | Photo: Shutterstock

Black Women in Stock Photo Banks

The representation of black women surfing was non-existent in image banks, and SOMA Surf needed visibility to continue with the project.

A Betclic and Shutterstock Studios-sponsored crew traveled to São Tomé to create the documentary "Surfing Through the Odds" and shoot these young African women, the first black female surfers to be featured in a photo and video collection.

"We have identified a gap in the content market and actively worked to solve that problem in what has been an incredibly rich and rewarding experience for everyone involved," explained Adam Barnett, executive at Shutterstock Studios.

"We are excited for the world to look at the final images and documentary and be transported to the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, where hundreds of young women are embarking on life-changing experiences thanks to SOMA's initiatives."

The project takes advantage of each partner's best resources and visibility to contribute to effective change in racial and gender inequality in the surfing community and the empowerment of women in São Tomé.

SOMA Surf: Empowering Women Through Waves

SOMA Surf is located in a small town on the island, Santana, and offers year-long programs for girls to attend after school.

The program includes:

  • Surfing lessons: To break down stigma and increase the girls' self-esteem and social skills;
  • Academic support: To increase interest in school and create an inviting environment for study;
  • Psychoeducation: To teach how to identify and express emotions, deal with trauma, and understand the importance of asking for help;
  • Empowerment activities: Debates and workshops on confidence, the role of women in society, and sex education;

"In the reality of these girls, surfing alone and surf therapy was only the beginning of a paradigm shift," reveals Francisca Sequeira, founder of SOMA Surf.

"To combat gender inequality, early pregnancy, and poor school performance, among others, we needed to complement the surfing activities with a structure that offered more, such as a non-formal school, as well as a safe space for women, which didn't exist."

"We gained the community's trust through surfing and, with that, we began to understand what were the important conversations to have with these girls and how we should approach them."

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