The Institute for Women Surfers is a grassroots educational initiative in the Public Humanities that brings together women surfers, activists, artists, business owners, scientists and educators, to create spaces of peer teaching, learning, and mutual aid.    It was founded through the collaborative energies and joint vision of Cori Schumacher of The Inspire Initiative and Professor Krista Comer of Rice University.  The Institute is currently directed by Professor Comer in close consultation with the IWS Steering Committee.

Institute 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018 Upcoming Institute Info:

  • In 2014, the pilot Institute took place at the North County LGBT Center in Oceanside, California.
  • The 2015 Institute was held at the Brooks Institute in Ventura, California.
  • The 2017 Institute was held October 6-8 at Stanford University, and at Pacifica Beach, California. It was supported both by Stanford’s Lane Center for the American West and by Rice University.
  • The upcoming 2018 Institute will be sponsored again by Stanford’s Bill Lane Center for the American West. Stay tuned for more information.

Institute Trainings & Participants/Collaboration

The Institute sponsors annual trainings in “big picture” thinking.  These are weekend events, beginning with group surfs on Friday afternoons, and ending on Sunday.  Instead of an admission fee, every Participant contributes a skill or resource or project update. The goal is for groups of women to gather and hear one another’s ideas and challenges so we can strengthen each other’s work.  Among the most pressing concerns of subcultural life is the need for sophisticated activism with interests not in big profits for the few but in sustainable living and just international relations — including centrally respect for women and girls. The Institute is committed to building projects and programs that feed larger surfeminist movements. 

The Institute also is presently building a Participants site to publicize activist and artistic projects, as well is developing  Collaborations.   The hope is that this web presence, FaceBook discussions connected to it, and Institute trainings, can share resources across the many geographies of the surf world, and serve goals set by feminist communities.  

Institute Origins

The need for an organization like the Institute became clear from conversations, over several years, between Professor Comer and several social change-oriented surfers who read Professor Comer’s book Surfer Girls in the New World Order (Duke University Press, 2010).  These surfers –in 2011, Farhana Huq of Brown Girl Surf, then Cori Schumacher in 2013– reached out to Professor Comer to suggest they join forces to develop and sustain new projects.  Several of their projects were already underway including the media platform “Brown Girl Surf,” and later, a direct action campaign, spearheaded by Cori Schumacher, to demand that Roxy stop using women’s bodies to sell surf culture and products.  The interest of the public in both projects, and the enormous response to Schumacher’s direct action campaign to change Roxy’s advertising values, made apparent the strong public desire for a far less commercialized, and a far more diverse and socially conscious, surf culture.  

The idea for political education of activist leaders, and especially feminist political education, grew from conversations between Schumacher and Comer about coordination of, and support for movement building activities.  Peer training seemed well suited to the grassroots activism of surfers.  The training goal is for leaders to be able to speak capably to the fact that surf industry reaches far and wide and involves itself at all levels of established and emerging economies, as well as in global media. Of the many models for political education available, important feminist trade union lessons came from from the National Nurses Association (NNA) which annually brings together its overwhelmingly female international leadership for political education, policy updates, and camaraderie.  

More Info:

For more information about curricula in development, collaborative possibilities, or to become a Participant, please contact Professor Comer at kcomer@rice.edu.