Karen Monteagudo’s Mission To Make Surfing Accessible to Women
Photography: Femka Tewari
Now an avid surfer, Karen didn’t start practicing the sport until her 30s, as when she was a teenager there were no groups dedicated to teaching women the discipline.
As a result, she made it a point to take the matter into her own hands and start Water Women Collective as a way to provide all women – no matter their age – with a safe space to get acquainted with the board and be encouraged to express themselves.
“The Ocean is my peace, tranquility, joy, escape and happiness” – Karen Monteagudo
“I started the group in June 2020, right after they finally opened the beaches back up,” she writes via email, “it had been my dream for a long time to help women get started with surfing without encountering the same hurdles as me.”
In order to be as inclusive as possible, she ended up creating space for three different interests: surfing, freediving & snorkeling, and SUP (Stand Up Paddle Boarding) – and while the latter is no longer in service, her collective keeps expanding and inspiring people.
Photography: Alex Beker
Developing a relationship with the Ocean is crucial for every human, but it is a particularly radical act for women as they have historically been excluded from participating in many water-based activities due to gender norms and cultural beliefs.
Water Women Collective is open to all women looking to spend more time in the Ocean in a fun, safe and encouraging environment.
While surfing may be one of the hardest sports to learn, it is also the most rewarding according to the founder.
“Seeing one of my ladies’ faces after a good day out in the ocean is the best part of what I do. It brings happiness and it’s contagious,” she continues during our digital exchange, “some of them have told me becoming part of this community has changed their life [for the better]”.
Photography: Raul Franco
By connecting with the Ocean, women can develop a deeper sense of self-awareness, empowerment and resilience as well as acquire an integral role in the fight against environmental degradation.
Spending so much time on the beach is regenerative but it also offers a clear view of how its health has been deteriorating through the years.
Karen has noticed that more seaweed and jellyfish are populating the coast, an obvious sign of climate change. Storms are getting increasingly more violent too, consequently affecting rocky areas with visible erosion.
The King Tide – an especially high tide particular of Spring – has become more drastic and dangerous, causing increased chances of tidal flooding in the city of Miami and surrounding areas.
Many are the detrimental behaviors contributing to the deterioration of marine life but single-use plastics, fishing sharks for their fins, oil drilling and using the Ocean as a waste bin are what Karen feels worried about most.
For this, she tries to live as sustainably as possible, bringing her own bags to the grocery shop, eating less meat, recycling and being extremely careful with the products she consumes.
“Reusing, packing your own lunch and using reef-safe sunscreen can go a long way”, she concludes.
Photography: Karen Monteagudo
If you live in Miami and are interested in joining the collective, reach out to Karen via Instagram at @waterwomencollectivemiami.
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