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SeaSisters Season 6: Celebrating Diversity

From December 2023 to April 2024, we hosted the 6th season of our Swim & Surf Program in Southern Sri Lanka. This season stands out as our most diverse one yet: with plenty of swimming and surfing, the introduction of new programs and events, and the expansion of our ocean-loving community, we made waves locally and globally. Dive deeper into the highlights of Season 6!

Our SeaSisters are inspiring women from all over the world.

Photo Copyright: Marina Mantolan

Riding Waves of Empowerment

As usual, we kicked off our Swim & Surf Program in December, offering Sri Lankan women from coastal villages the opportunity to join our weekly lessons and learn how to swim and surf in a safe space. This season, however, we made some adjustments. 

While initially we welcomed women and girls of all ages (starting from 6 years old), we’ve decided to shift our focus to young women over 18 years old. Our lessons not only teach swimming and surfing but also serve as a platform to discuss gender norms and foster women’s empowerment. Over the years, we’ve noticed that we can have a deeper impact on these young women, showing them new possibilities in important stages of their lives.

Our Community - Swipe to see more!

Maintaining diversity, we welcomed 26 young women from different coastal towns, including 7 returners and 15 new participants. Collaborating with the non-profit organisation Karuna Sri Lanka, we also offered 4 women from underprivileged backgrounds the chance to embark on their ocean journey. Furthermore, we were thrilled to have visits from pioneering women surfers from Iran, Turkey and India.

Most women joining SeaSisters have never ventured into the ocean before. During the program, they significantly improved their swimming and surfing skills, formed new friendships, connected with the ocean, and learned about the environment.

"Before SeaSisters, I had never been deep inside the ocean, and I was very scared. SeaSisters helped me overcome my fear. I've never done any sports, and now I can swim and surf." (Samari)

At the end of our four-month program, we awarded certificates to our successful alumni, celebrating their achievements with immense happiness.

 Congratulations to our SeaSisters!

From Dream to Reality: The Debut of Our Surf Academy

In addition to our regular lessons, we’ve launched a new program: The Surf Academy! Those who have been following us for a while know that one of our dreams is to help Sri Lankan women become surf instructors.

This season, we welcomed 8 committed young women - Udani, Himaya, Tharundya, Omaya, Shashi, Prathiba, Ishi, and Nethmi - supporting them with extra coaching to elevate their surfing skills.

Surf Academy Participants Udani and Tharundya

Photo Copyright: Adam Moore

A huge thanks goes to our local team and international volunteers for making our Swim & Surf Program possible. We also want to express our gratitude to our partners, The Surfer, for providing swimming facilities, Outpost Coliving for offering their space for events, and Ticket to Ride for supporting our Surf Academy.

Strengthening Our Movement Outside the Water

Beyond our lessons, we organised diverse and enriching community events: We explored the beautiful underwater world of the Marine National Park in Hikkaduwa, delved into Sri Lankan history at the Tsunami Museum, hosted a Yoga & Lunch session at Island Sisters, and cheered on surfers at the Red Bull Surfing Competition.

Our Snorkelling Trip was beyond Mesmerizing

Furthermore, we hosted sustainability-focused events in collaboration with local and international partners. Together with the crew from Edges of Earth, we organised a beach clean in Weligama. And at our SeaSisters Upcycling Workshop, for which we collaborated with the Merrill J Foundation, we learned how to transform waste into art.

Cleaning our Beaches and Turning Trash into Art

Photo Copyright: Adam Moore

Extending our community outside of the lessons allowed us to reach more people and grow our movement, spreading the word about environmental awareness and women's empowerment on the local level.

Tourist Events and Fundraisers With Impact

Education plays not only a crucial role in our community events but also in our efforts to educate tourists about sustainability. Last year, we launched the SeaSisters Experience Day, inviting tourists to immerse themselves in Sri Lankan culture and adopt a more conscious approach to travelling. We’ve decided to offer these workshops to retreats and hotels, partnering with My Serendipity, renowned for their empowering women's surf & yoga retreats.

Our Workshop Was Undoubtedly a Highlight on their Journey to Sri Lanka

Photo Copyright: Marina Mantolan

Moreover, we hosted our SeaSisters Full Moon Women’s Circle, bringing together Sri Lankan and international women to share empowering perspectives on womanhood. Our sincere thanks go to Outpost Coliving and Elements Ahangama for providing their beautiful spaces.

Do you want to book our SeaSisters Experience Day or Women’s Night for your retreat?

Additionally, we organised our inaugural SeaSisters Charity event, celebrating Sri Lankan art and culture. This event, hosted by our dedicated local team and community facilitators, provided our SeaSisters with a platform to showcase their talents in acting, public speaking, and dancing!

“Thanks to SeaSisters' incredible teamwork, I've gained confidence speaking in front of groups without any fear. They've truly helped me grow!” (Rashmi)

Making Waves Globally: SeaSisters goes Viral

Another goal of SeaSisters is to raise awareness about a more diverse surf culture and encourage women from all over the world to pursue their own paths. Therefore, we started some exciting collaborations this season. A standout moment was our photoshoot for SHESEAS magazine, inspired by the women of Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club. Capturing our cultural heritage in empowering imagery, our story went viral around the world, inspiring thousands of women globally. 

Encouraging women to follow their paths

Photo Copyright: Marina Mantolan

Moreover, we've partnered with the Alliance Française de Colombo for the international photography project ‘Sport Friendly’ by the French photographer Emilien Buffard, aiming to celebrate inclusivity and diversity in sport. Stay tuned for more information on our upcoming photo exhibition in Colombo!

Last but not least... To foster a sense of belonging within our movement, we've brought back our SeaSisters merchandise, and launched new t-shirt designs. 

Interested in selling our products at your shop? Reach out to us!

The Stars Behind the Scenes

To make this diverse season happen, we’ve had a committed team working relentlessly. A big thank you goes to:

  • Program Director Kalpa Gandhari and Program Assistant Udani Hewamadduma for their leadership and ensuring the success of our programs and events.

  • Thamali Arachchi for bringing back our products and supporting fundraising efforts.

  • Our local Community Facilitators Omaya, Dilakshi, Himaya, Prathiba, Shashika and Tharundya for providing support wherever needed at our events.

  • Head Coaches Gerdien Robbertsen and Lucy Theobald for leading and continuously improving our Swim & Surf Program.

  • Volunteers Anika, Beth, Debbie, Elenora, Elisa, Fay, Imke, Jaszmin, Leia, Remy, Romy, Sabrina, Sacha, Seren and Teigan for their dedication and empowerment at the lessons.

  • Co-founder and Executive Director Martina Burtscher for her leadership and managing operations remotely.

  • Co-founder and Strategic Advisor Amanda Prifti, as well as advisors Mahishaa Balraj and Sasmini Bandera for providing guidance and support where possible.

Thank you for making these smiles possible!

A Heartfelt Thank You, Stuthi & Nandri

We also want to express our gratitude to our partners: The Surfer, Outpost Coliving, Island Sisters, Elements, Ticket to Ride and My Serendipity. Without you, we wouldn't have come this far.

A special note of gratitude goes to our grant partner FRIDA Young Feminist Fund and to everyone who supported our cause by making a generous donation, whether through our GoFundMe campaign or individual donations. We are especially grateful to Leila and Hisham for their remarkable generosity.

Last but not least, Thank You to our followers for creating awareness and helping us spread the stoke.

Thank you all, or as we say in Sinhalese, Stuthi! and in Tamil, Nandri!

We can’t wait to take you on the next part of our adventure! 

With love, 

Your SeaSisters

Photo Copyright: Marina Mantolan

Want to be the first one to know about our next steps?

Written by Martina Burtscher

Photos by Adam Moore, Elisa Bresseleers, Fay Cleaver, Imke Litjens, Maria Roho, Marina Mantolan


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