We’re looking back on an AMAZING season! From November 2019 until April 2020, we ran our second SeaSisters season in Weligama - with more salty smiles than ever! Read more about the development of our Swim & Surf Program, the launch of our ethically made product line and the awesome team behind the scenes below.
DOUBLE THE FUN
In November 2019, we kicked off the second season of our Swim & Surf Program - and it was a huge success! After ending our first season with 14 girls regularly joining the lessons, we now have more than 30 girls signed up - and a growing waiting list! Our participants come from several villages along the South coast, and range from 8 to 54 years old. We are stoked to reach such a diverse group, challenging the prevalent stereotype that “Sri Lankan women don’t surf”.
In addition, our instructor team also grew and throughout the season, we had more than 40 volunteers join us!
Check out this video by Bloomberg Media, sharing the powerful story of Chamani, 44, and her daughter Sithumi, 10.
Despite growing up surrounded by water, most of our participants came to SeaSisters as complete non-swimmers, often being afraid of the ocean. Over the 18 weeks of lessons, all our girls have overcome their fears and significantly improved their swimming and surfing skills - we are so proud! It was amazing to watch them connecting with the ocean and paddling into waves - always with the biggest smiles on their faces!
"When I'm in the ocean, I feel free. I forget about everything. It's just me and the waves." (Sanu)
Season 2 also required the creation of the 'Intermediates' group for girls like Sanu and Sajuri, who are now charging into green waves by themselves, assisting our instructors and starting to explore new surf breaks outside of the lessons. It is inspiring to see our long term goals of local women joining the line up and teaching other girls begin to take shape!
Swipe to see more photos!
NEW ELEMENTS & SPECIAL GUESTS
We are also proud to say that this season, we massively improved our teaching standards by developing our own SeaSisters methodology and several education materials. For example, we designed a 'Swim and Surf Passport', providing each girl with a special place to track their progress and acknowledge their achievements. Our program now also incorporates an environmental education aspect to raise awareness of plastic pollution. Each lesson ended with a mini beach clean and we created an interactive booklet in both Sinhalese and English, on how to become an ‘Ocean Protector’.
We also hosted a number of special workshops, led by inspirational guests: Aline Bock, a pro snowboarder who overcame countless gender-based challenges along her journey; Aneesha Nayek, one of India’s pioneering female surfers; and Kim Chareonbood, a surf coach focusing on the mental elements and overcoming fears.
Special guests Aline Bock and Aneesha Nayek
BEHIND THE SCENES
Outside of the water, we have been working relentlessly on the development of SeaSisters. We switched our mode of operation from non-profit to social enterprise. This move allows us to become more financially independent in the long run, relying less on donations and being more proactive about generating income.
It was so fun to have our own office in Midigama - and a growing team of power women! This season, co-founders Amanda and Martina got two local staff members - Sanu and Kalpa - and four professional volunteers - Catherine, Lara, Marine and Martina - on board, enriching the team with their skills in fundraising, product development, sales, graphic design, social media and advocacy.
Girl Power! At our first fundraising event and team brunch.
Our transition into social enterprise led to the launch of our first SeaSisters product line - handmade by Sri Lankan women for fair wages, in collaboration with Rice & Carry. The proceeds of this directly support our Swim & Surf Program. We call this Double Empowerment - creating both jobs and the opportunity to swim and surf!
Our product line includes bags and pouches made from beautiful, traditional handloom fabric, crafted by Sookriya on Sri Lanka’s East Coast. We also collaborated with two female surf artists to create illustrations challenging the typical ‘surfer girl’ image and capturing the best of Sri Lanka.
Our products are available at retailers islandwide - and we plan to bring them overseas soon. Keep an eye out!
THANKS TO OUR SUPPORTERS
This season was made possible by the support and generosity of our local and international community, so we'd like to say a huge THANK YOU to our volunteers, donors and sponsors!
Over the last year, we have raised 60% of our $10,000 fundraising goal through GoFundMe. This has been our core funding that allowed us to grow our Swim & Surf program (covering costs for equipment, transport, safety workshops) and to extend our team (enabling us to hire local staff and host professional volunteers).
Shout out to The Surfer Weligama and Camp Poe for providing us with the resources needed to run our lessons, and to our financial sponsors Soul & Surf Sri Lanka and Ceylon Sliders, enabling us to develop and print our educational materials. Looking back at the two fundraisers we had this season, we’d like to send our gratitude to The Doctor’s House and Dots Bay House for hosting us, to all our raffle donors and to everyone who made the night so fun! Combined, we raised $3,180, which covered legal and operational expenses (such as renting our office and registering as a social enterprise).
Thank you everybody - we couldn’t have done this all without you!
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Our lessons usually run from November until April, coinciding with the surf season on Sri Lanka’s South Coast. Due to the Corona crisis, however, we came to an early end this season, with our last lesson on March 7. These are challenging times for Sri Lanka, the world and social enterprises like SeaSisters. But we do not give up and we’ll be using these off-season months to reflect, evaluate and plan. We have a lot of exciting ideas and can't wait to tell you more!
Lots of love from Sri Lanka,
Your SeaSisters Team