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The Ocean Belongs To Everyone

Beneath our varyingly-melanated dermis – we are the same thing: a complex, interconnected mess who all sucked at surfing at one point.

features // Mar 6, 2022
Words by Corina Stephens
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Learning how to surf can suck. From afar, what looks like an exhilarating and even elegant time can feel like a prolonged practice in drowning. Of course, with enough time and effort invested, surfing as a pastime and a lifestyle has the potential to bring an amount of joy to our lives that far outweighs the pursuit’s initial discomforts…eventually. For example, I’ve been surfing for eighteen years, which, as a rough estimate equates to about 4,000 hours logged (give or take a thousand), and I’m still regularly humbled by the sea. So imagine, in addition to the innate challenges of simply learning how to stand up on a wave, how much more daunting a task suiting up and getting sloshed around in the current would be if it were also accompanied by feelings of isolation, alienation and general otherness. Talk about needing a pep talk just to paddle out, much less return ad infinitum.

Whether used as a place for personal expression, or respite and renewal, the sea is one of the most freeing and least inhibited environments on earth. Covering more space than any land mass and existing as a cohesive body between continents, it is literally a bonding force on our planet and a massive metaphor for connectedness. But barriers both physical and philosophical have been built around who supposedly “is” and “isn’t” welcome within the world’s waters. Despite waveriding’s roots in rich cultures of black- and brown-skinned peoples, this once indigenous sport of royals has, in recent decades, been portrayed in an overwhelmingly monochromatic manner. (Un?)Fortunately, this lack of representation spurred Martina Duran, Danielle Black Lyons and Chelsea Woody to come together in 2019 and create Textured Waves: a collective of women of color who are turning the tide of underrepresentation and writing a new history of surfing in real time (what did you do today?).

Through this platform, the women are actively creating a more inviting space for ladies of all shades who ride waves by paying homage to the past and drawing new lines for future generations. In doing so, they are sending a clear and resounding message that’s quickly rippling around the world: that the ocean belongs to everyone. Now, in its third year of aquatic activism, Textured Waves has teamed up with Vans – a cultural icon in surfing and beyond, long known for breaking boundaries and connecting communities across the globe – to design a head-to-toe collection amplifying this meaningful message. 

Rendered in earthen and ocean hues, this nine-piece range of apparel and footwear reflects the natural beauty that surrounds us in the lineup while expressing sartorially that, just as no two waves are identical, we, as humans, are not uniform. “We wanted to incorporate an aspect of our DNA to the line [and] drew upon imagery at the cellular level,” say the TW women about the collaboration. “We honestly just wanted to make something we all loved wearing and to tell a story of our connectivity to the ocean.” 

The collection’s playful yet utilitarian silhouettes encourage individual self-expression and immersion in natural surroundings while leaving interpretation open to the wearer. Through its exuberant lines and mesmerizing print motifs, this collaboration nods abstractly to the Textured Waves ethos, reminding us that at our core – beneath our varyingly-melanated dermal layers – we are all the same thing: a beautiful, complex, interconnected mess who all sucked at surfing at one point.

When asked how they envision the collection living in the world, says Textured Waves: “We don’t have any expectations for where folks might enjoy the pieces…We just want people to feel good wearing it! We hope that it brings in new ideas, people and joy! There is so much more room for growth in terms of an inclusive surf world, and we just hope we can push the envelope and encourage more brands to not only support folks working on diversity but help integrate them into the surfing space.” 

And now, thanks to their courageous work and its amplification by the Vans’ megaphone, we can consider the envelope pushed, and the door to a broader spectrum of surf enthusiasts a little bit wider open.

You can view the collection here.

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