On our adventures in India, fellow Billabong team rider Emi Koch took me to visit the school where she’s been doing work through her NGO Beyond the Surface.
We spent a few days learning about the amazing work of the school, called SISP (Sebastian Indian Social Project), which takes in the poorest of children and provides them with nutritious food, medical care, education, yoga and a surf club. Children’s lives are transformed by their experiences at SISP and they are taught to dream bigger for themselves and their families.
Emi’s bravery and dedication to her work has been so inspiring and serves as a powerful example of surfing’s ability to create change in the world.
Meeting Lauren for the first time and joining the girls as part of the crew filming in India was indescribable… these women are light-hearted bundles of inspiration and passionate energy with open-minds eager to learn more about a culture so different to the one we grew up in on the opposite side of the planet.
For the past eight months I’ve navigated India between the capital Delhi and the southern state of Kerala between art projects up north in the mountains and surfing with the Kovalam Surf Club in the south along the coast. To have Lauren here joining me in the water with our wave-riding groms has been extremely inspirational… western tourists and local kids normally do not interact so to have two sides of the same coin swimming and laughing together in the sea was really amazing.
Usually I am the only girl in the water urging other girls to take that step into the sea. But a step into the sea is a step away from what society expects from these girls… to be married in the household… my hope is for these young women to nourish their inner voices and believe that what they have to say as individuals is important and valued.
Emi and I with the girls of SISP. These girls were welcomed to join the school’s surf club, but as they reach puberty those opportunities are sequestered by their parents, who wish for their daughters only to prepare themselves for marriage and life in the home.
Traditional dress for women and young girls in Kerala, though colorful and beautiful, is a constant reminder of the stringent expectations for women to uphold. If they are to swim or surf, they must do so drenched in fabric.
Kumari, a brave woman who has worked at the SISP school for the past 20 years, helping to transform her community.
SISP also provides work opportunities for women to gain financial independence through sustainable handicrafts. These earrings are made from recycled paper.
Emi has started an amazing project for the young SISP girls called She Sells Sea Shells, to create opportunities for the girls to engage with the sea, express themselves creatively and foster a safe space to share stories.
Yoga at school with the kids.