OPINION: The Wave Wahines and their inspirational leader Yvette Curtis - Stephanie Conway

Yvette Curtis, founder of Wave Wahines

Yvette Curtis, founder of Wave Wahines - Credit: Yvette Curtis

Yvette Curtis, the North Devon-based founder of Wave Wahines, has been shortlisted for the Womens Sports Alliance Inspiration of the Year award. 

“I screamed when I heard who I was shortlisted with,” said Yvette, who is the only grassroots-led nominee in her category, and shares the nomination alongside Simone Biles, record-breaking USA gymnast, and Alice Dearing, the first black woman to swim for Team GB. 

The North Devon fitness instructor turned female surf group founder started Wave Wahines after her daughter had expressed an interest in surfing, but found no affordable way to learn as a single mother.

What started as an encouraging surf school has developed into so much more

What started as an encouraging surf school has developed into so much more - Credit: Carolyn Seager

“We tried to find a local surf club or school that could help her. But I struggled to find a club that wasn’t competitive, expensive and full of boys. She needed a group that had a more nurturing environment, and I’m a personal trainer by trade so I set out to start something for the girls in our area who find themselves in the same position.” 

So, determined to help her daughter, Yvette contacted Surf South West to support her idea, and Wave Wahines was born. 

"Wave Wahines started as a surf club for girls. We provide a fun, non-competitive and affordable route into surf lessons.” Surfing can be expensive. Lessons can range between £35 and £45 per hour, which is expensive if you’re on a single-household income or have more than one child. Whereas a two-hour surf lesson for an 8-16-year-old through Wave Wahines only costs £10, which removes financial barriers and allows more kids from different backgrounds the chance to surf. Over the past six years, we have grown to run sessions for women, too.” 

Wave Wahine has brought radical inclusivity to surfing in ways never seen before

Wave Wahine has brought radical inclusivity to surfing in ways never seen before - Credit: Yvette Curtis

What started as an encouraging surf school has developed into so much more, including working alongside local charity, North Devon Against Domestic Abuse, to provide surf therapy sessions for women in refuge. “We’ve received training to deliver surf therapy programs to their women as they come to terms with the trauma associated with domestic and sexual violence.” 

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Curtis has also worked with Active Devon on their Open Doors program to provide access to free surf coaching for young women who are at risk of offending. But the jewel in the crown of Wave Wahines may be the recent program that provided surf coaching and therapy to a group of female refugees, who had recently moved to the area. “I’m thrilled to have helped welcome these families to our home here in North Devon, a place where they can have safety, and begin to allow their lives to thrive,” says Curtis. 

Wave Wahine has brought radical inclusivity to surfing in ways never seen before, right on North Devon’s doorstep. For a sport that is so frequently associated with male-dominated lineups, Yvette’s nomination is incredibly well-earned. 

The North Devon based personal trainer and inclusive female surf group founder’s impact both in and out of the sea has been described by local mums as a ‘vital part of the female community.’  

Wave Wahines has grown from a surf group for girls into an incredible barrier-breaking way for women and girls of any age and background to develop their surfing ability in an encouraging environment. 

When asked what she’s most proud of about Wave Wahines, Curtis said: “Whenever I take our girls group out for a surf, there can be as many as forty girls in the water together between the ages of 8 and 15, and they absolutely dominate. It’s massively special to me because it’s so important for women and girls to know that they have absolutely every right to be there.” 

More information on Wave Wahines can be found on their website www.wavewahines.co.uk If you’d like to vote for Yvette Curtis to win the Women’s Sports Alliance Inspiration of the Year Award, visit www.wsportsalliance.com/vote

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