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Brown Girl Surf: Holding Space for the Ocean’s Joy

February 24, 2022

Green 2.0 Team

Kimiko, Environmental Educator, demonstrating board teamwork during youth Summer Camp, 2021. Photo Credit: Brown Girl Surf.

Brown Girl Surf: Holding Space for the Ocean’s Joy

By Adriana Guerrero, Executive Director of Brown Girl Surf

Brown Girl Surf, is an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit that is focused on creating a surf culture that is rooted in joy, inclusion, and empowerment. This guest blog post by the organization’s executive director, Adriana Guerrero, talks about the mission of the organization and why it’s important to increase access to the ocean.

I joined Brown Girl Surf in 2020 as the organization’s associate director and became executive director in April of 2021. I joined this organization because I have always had a deep connection and respect for the ocean, and witnessed the healing power of nature. 

I love being part of the Brown Girl Surf community and joining a social justice organization that centers girls, women, and gender-expansive surfers of color and is leading the movement for equitable access to the ocean in the Bay Area.

Marlim, during a Water Warrior Wednesday program at Linda Mar Beach. Photo Credit: Sue Jean Sung.

I believe in the mission of creating a surf culture where all people feel welcome, included, and empowered. Brown Girl Surf does this through community surf programming, environmental education, ocean conservation, and advocacy work that addresses some of the barriers that have prevented communities of color from feeling welcome not only in the world of surfing but also at the beach.

Many of us at Brown Girl Surf have been interested in the ocean and surfing, but surf culture has long been dominated by white men. And in parts of California, people of color and Black people in particular, have been prevented from enjoying beaches as recently as the 1960s. Our organization works to remedy this history by welcoming girls, women, and gender-expansive individuals of color to spaces they were not always invited in.

“In fact, surfing is an Indigenous sport,” says our organization’s co-founder Mira Manickam-Shirley, in this PBS interview. “It was developed in Hawaii and in the Polynesian Islands and it was practiced by both men and women.”

Brown Girl Surf was founded in 2011 with the goal to build and foster a community that celebrates diversity, uplifts one another, and welcomes everyone to enjoy our beaches and ocean. We have recently focused our attention on Pacifica’s beaches to make sure people who don’t fit the typical surfer prototype, have a chance on the water. We have done this by becoming a part of several coalitions to further equity and ocean conservation efforts, both internally and externally.

These include the Next 100 Coalition’s Ocean Equity Collective, Ocean Justice Forum, and Marine Market and Equity Cohort. Within these groups, we work to ensure that all communities can participate in the protection and enjoyment of the ocean while simultaneously creating and advancing a federal ocean policy agenda that centers economic, racial, climate, and environmental justice within a racial equity and social justice lens. 

Marlim, Program Specialist, and Sutara, Program Coordinator, with Rising Leader Youth at Linda Mar Beach. Photo Credit: Amanda Roosa.

One of our biggest advocacy initiatives involves increasing access to Pacifica State Beach (Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, Calif.) which has historically excluded nonprofits and community organizations from operating on the beach because of an outdated and restrictive permitting system. The good news is we have progress to report on this issue. As of January of this year, during a public city council meeting held by the City of Pacifica, our Community Access Partnership Permit (CAPP) was unanimously approved and passed. This means that we are well on our way to increasing beach access for all Californians, particularly organizations that serve historically excluded communities! 

Although we started the new year with good news, we know there is much ahead of us. Thankfully, our organization is in a period of tremendous growth that will only continue as we expand our vision and mission (click the link to our career opportunities below!).

Above all, we hope to bring more girls, women, and gender-expansive individuals of color to the ocean so they can feel the joy and elation from surfing and being in the water. Everyone deserves this opportunity.

For more information about Adriana Guerrero, follow Adriana on LinkedIn. For career opportunities at Brown Girl Surf, visit: ​​

To learn more about Brown Girl Surf, visit and follow the organization on Instagram browngirlsurf.