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Episode 91: Black Joy On The Waves with Martina Duran of Textured Waves

"We have to be able to tell our own stories."

This week we're joined by Martina Duran, co-founder of Textured Waves. Textured Waves is a collective of women of all shades, riding the waves - founded by female BIPOC surfers for female BIPOC surfers. Martina talks about their short film "Sea Us Now," her journey of self-acceptance and how it coincides with the ocean, and how brands can better represent their customers.

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Photo: Nick LaVecchia


Episode Transcript

Iris: Hello, all you outdoor industry professionals. Welcome back to Outside by Design. This is Iris from WHEELIE and I am back this week after a little vacation, riding bikes in Wyoming. And I am here to introduce our latest guest Martina Duran. And she is co-founder of Textured Waves, which is a community of women of all shades riding the waves. They are all about women of color getting out and going surfing.

And a few weeks ago, they released this incredible short film called Sea Us Now, S-E-A Us Now, and you can find it on the Textured Waves website, as well as I believe on their IGTV channel. And I would really recommend watching it before you jump into this episode. Give it a watch. It's about four minutes long and it is incredibly powerful. So beautiful. And like Martina says, just a celebration of Black joy on the waves.

And Martina is here to talk about this film and talk about the work that Textured Waves has been doing in the surfing community and the importance of representation in media, especially in a sport where the media representation tends toward one single type of person.

So Lisa had a wonderful conversation with Martina and we are so happy to introduce her to you. So here we go. Let's listen.

Lisa: Well, Martina, thank you so much for being on our podcast today. I'm so excited to have you here.

Martina: Thank you. I'm so excited to be speaking with you.

Lisa: The first question we ask everyone is to describe where they are and what they're looking at.

Martina: So currently I am on the beautiful Island of Oahu in Honolulu, and I am looking at something, not that beautiful. I'm looking at a computer desk and my computers right now. But just outside my window is the ocean and the break I serve out every day, so.

Lisa: Mmm. Lucky. What time is it in Hawaii right now?

Martina: It is 10 o'clock. 10:00 AM.

Lisa: Cool. Awesome. So you, I'm really excited to have you on the podcast because we get to talk about surfing. We get to talk about shining a light on representation in surfing. We get to talk about the film, Sea Us Now and the organization Textured Waves.

Martina: Yeah.

Lisa: So I guess my big question to you is kind of what's your story and how did you get involved in all of this?

Martina: Yeah, so my story starts in Florida. I do live here in Hawaii, but I was born and raised in Florida born, in Miami, grew up on the Gulf Coast. So the ocean was always a part of my life. I was never more than probably 20 minutes from the water. And when I was... I remember distinctly when I was younger, growing up in Miami, there was a program that was, I think the purpose of the program was to reduce drownings amongst minority children. Since minority children are five times more likely to drown. And so that program got us in the ocean and not only taught us swimming basics, but really taught us a respect and a knowledge of the ocean that I think you can't get in a pool. So I'm very thankful for that program because it gave the foundation to me, being able to have comfort and respect and a curiosity about the ocean and what it means to play in the ocean and not see it just as this scary thing.

So naturally later on in life, I picked up surfing. I actually took my first lesson... I was doing a study abroad program actually in Costa Rica. So I was living there for a semester and I took my first lesson out there. And, yeah. And then I... and it's just never left me I guess.

And as I surfed, of course, like anybody who discovers a new passion, you kinda do the... what I call the YouTube rabbit hole, where you're trying to find out everything you can about this. And one thing I noticed was that while I was looking up resources on surfing and surf movies and surf videos and surfers, I noticed that the type of surfers that were represented looked like one person and I did not fit into that narrative. So it was, it was a bit of this internal stress or like, you know, I know I love this and I get joy. But then when I walk into my surf shop or I turn on, you know, a surf competition or watch the latest surf movie, I'm not in this space, you know?

So that kind of led to the Genesis of Textured Waves. And I co-founded it with three other women of color and we wanted to just get that imagery out there and change that narrative of what a surfer looks like. So, yeah, I mean, that's that in a nutshell.

Lisa: I love it. Tell me about the term Textured waves and how you came up with that.

Martina: Yeah. So Textured Waves, that's a play on words. Within the African American community, especially, our hair is something that is, it's this very sacred thing to us. And you know, we liked the name Textured Qaves, because it does mean something to the surfing community. You know, our waves do have different textures. The ocean has different textures. But speaking to our community, the African American community, it also has another really deeply personal meaning because, you know, all our hair comes in different textures and different shapes and different curl patterns. And, you know, it's something that we wanted to celebrate because, you know, not too long ago we were not celebrated for embracing our natural texture. You know, we were told to conform to more of a European beauty standard and straighten our hair or relax it or whatever. And we’re coming into this new kind of, I don't know, self-love Renaissance where, you know, the black community is being told, embrace their hair, texture, embrace that natural beauty that is yours.

Yeah. So that's where the name came from. It came from, you know, that deeply personal and... it's kind of hard to explain, but there's this really special sacredness of hair in the African American community, specifically the female African American community.

Lisa: And it it's really, really cool how that's tied into the ocean. Like how deeply personal your relationship with the ocean can be.

Martina: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, it's interesting. There's a lot of parallels. One parallel I draw is, my journey with my self acceptance, as you know, a woman of color is closely tied to my journey with the ocean and the water. Because when I'm in the water, you know, it doesn't matter or how straight my hair was before I entered in, you have to shed that, right? And your hair kind of returns to its natural texture. And, you know, I know in our community, a lot of women don't want to get darker. Right? When you go into the ocean and expose yourself to the sun, you allow your skin to really develop into all the hues that it was meant to be. So yeah, it kind of puts you on this path of like, well, in order to participate into this, in order to come into this space, you'd have to shed down all of these beauty standards you think you need to be. And yeah, my, my... my relationship with the ocean is deeply personal. And it also enabled me to really have a deeply personal and loving relationship with myself and my identity. So.

Lisa: Mmm. I love that. I also, for me - I love surfing. I live in the mountains, but I go on as many surf trips as I can. And surfing feels really feminine to me because it has so much to do with moon cycles. And there's... I don't know. It feels really powerful as a woman in the water. I'm not a woman of color, but I… I know what you mean about kind of having like a personal relationship with the ocean.

Martina: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Yeah. Beautifully put with the moon cycle. I don't think there is a coincidence that our bodies are calibrated with a moon and the ocean is too in a way. You know, I think there's somethingI think that all women kind of experience when, when you're in the water, you kind of connect into that wave. I think in this higher level that...I don't know. I can't put words into it when you get, you know. Yeah. Yeah. There's, there's definitely something to be said about that. I think it's definitely… the ocean is more... I guess I can't find the word... it's a feminine energy. I don't know how else to say that. [laughs]

Lisa: Yeah, it is. It is. And that's hard to explain too.

Martina: Yeah, it is.

Lisa: Yeah. So I know that you work in oncology research.

Martina: Mhmm.

Lisa: Which is, you know, obviously very scientific. How is it being in a film and working with creative individuals and kind of like, how do those worlds go together for you?

Martina: Wow. Yeah. I love any opportunity to explore my creative side because I don't get that opportunity in my work. My work is very black and white, a lot of numbers, and a lot of like, figuring out the mystery of something, right? Like that, that is the goal of… the ultimate goal of the work that I do is kind of figuring out the mystery of cancer and combating it. Right. Like my work does not like unknowns. Everything needs to be known and solved. And the beauty about being creative is you're... you have that freedom to let go and to be content with the unknown and, you know, I'm a huge fan of the arts. Acting especially, I love going to theater. I don't act, but I appreciate going to theater, classical Shakespeare or watching a good play, good music.

And anytime I have the opportunity to explore my creativity or engage in a creative exercise… I think it's, it's something that I just so gravitate to you because I'm so blocked from that in work. Creative is a bad word in my line of work. So to contrast the two, it was beautiful to be creative.

And I guess I was able to contribute from like my science background, like kind of making it work in a logistical way, if that makes sense. You know, the concept was Chelsea's, Chelsea had this concept of the film, the Sea Us Now film, and, you know, my input was to help kind of give it more structure to be told in a film format. So yeah.

Lisa: You're that one. You're the structure one.

Martina: I'm the structure one. Yeah. I mean, I like to be creative, like I said, and I like to explore my creativity, but from a very young age I was very much math/science. So I never... I don't think I have the same forum to play and to grow my creativity in a way that maybe other children did or other creatives did to where it led to a foundation to be super creative and out of this world as adults.

So, yeah. I was more... I did continue structure to the structure and things of the film and how to put images together and how to take the story off of like a couple scraps of paper of notes and images and, you know, all of these things and to put it into, you know, a story which has a beginning, middle, and end in a film format, if that makes sense.

Lisa: Oh yeah. That's... oh yeah. That's exciting stuff.

Martina: Yeah.

Lisa: So in your words, why is this film important and why is sharing this story? I think in the trailer I heard the quote African American water woman, which I loved. Like, why is that perspective important and one that really deserves to be told? In your words.

Martina: Yeah. Well, the film is important because there isn't any, there isn't really any other film like it. And we wanted to speak to a younger generation or any aspirational surfer to let them know what their possibilities are. And it was important to tell this from an African American woman perspective because we have to be able to tell our own stories. You know, going back to what I said about constantly media and seeing one type of surfer, I think something happens - and this, I think, can speak to the fashion world in general - I think something happens when you're a young woman growing up in this environment where a sort of gaslighting starts happening around you. Right? And you start questioning like, well, am I a surfer or am I a woman enough? And if my skin was a little bit lighter, would that make me more of a woman or would that make me more desirable or would I be more feminine if I surfed like this or, you know, whatever.

And I think that comes from a place of only one person being allowed to tell the story of what surfing is. So it was important for African Americans to... in this film to tell this story, to speak to other African Americans, you know, and let them know that there’s space for you too. And we're going to start telling, your story, Yeah.

Yeah. The other thing I want to mention about that too, is so often when you see African Americans being portrayed, or especially in a light where we're trying to talk about diversity, it's always in a very kind of heavy, you know, traumatic images, you know, the images out of the sixties, civil rights movement, you know, Black people being blasted with water cannons or, you know, even as of late with the images from the protests.

And while that is part of the story, it's also important to talk about black joy. You know, our experience isn't just heavy. You know, we, we have joy and we experienced joy and we can find joy in these moments of crisis. And so that's another reason why we were very intentional about the images that we use in this film though.

And by d the images, I mean the older images, retro images, cause we didn't want to show the same image of, you know, blacks not being allowed on the beach or, you know, them be denied access to a pool. But we wanted to show that there was a culture there and that we did have joy. And we did actively participate in it despite what was going around in the world, um, around us.

So, for all of those reasons, I think it's important that, that, that... This story comes from African-American voices.

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Iris: I love how Martina says we have to be able to tell our own stories. And this is so important. And we're finally seeing this trend happening in the outdoor space where we're not just seeing these elite white men portrayed in sports media and being the only ones featured in films and being the only one featured in social media and in advertising for brands.

We're finally seeing more and more diverse representation. And the best way to do that is to make sure that who is behind the scenes is diverse as well. So different photographers, you need a diverse group of writers and creators and creative directors and directors. And the way that you are going to get authentic portrayals is to have a well rounded base in your creative team.

And this is so critical to representing women, to representing people of color, to representing people with disabilities, to representing people in the LGBTQ community. And diversifying behind the scenes, behind the lens is so important to properly represent who is in front of the lens. So not only is this such a powerful story, but it's put together so beautifully, so wonderfully from start to finish by the team at Textured Waves and by everyone working on this project. So beautiful. Again, if you haven't watched it yet. Go watch it. Alright. Let's get back to Martina.

Lisa: Like, did you have to travel a lot for this film? And like, did you go to certain surf spots where you could really represent Black joy in the way that you wanted to? Or like, how did you find the surf spots for the film?

Martina: So the surf spots were found purely out of a need of function and budget. So, Seea obviously partnered with us to do this film and were amazing from the start to the finish. They contacted us a year ago. And they pretty much said whatever you guys want to do, it needs to come from your voice. So, you know, Chelsea had this idea cooking for a while and we had... it was crazy, like our initial director had to pull out last minute and then we have to scramble and find someone else. And then it was like, the last... like, we were down to the wire and also at this time, the first news reports of COVID started happening. Right. So it's like, okay, we need to record, you know, we need to shoot this soon.

So we shot some of the film scenes in Southern California, ‘cause that's where the Seea office is located. So we went out, met with the owner, Amanda and you know, tried it on some suits and did some shooting. And then the sur..., because these suits were summer suits and it was cold at that time in California, we ended up going down to Mexico to Sayulita where he water was warmer where we could actually surf in these suits. And, it was, it was great. And it, yeah, well, it's interesting because obviously, uh, Mexico, um, while they're not African Americans, mostly they are Brown, you know, so it is a different experience paddling out in a lineup w here, you know, I, I'm just going to contrast my experience even with Hawaii and California. You know, when I surf here in Hawaii, it's mostly Brown people around me. When I surf in California, I can go months without seeing another Brown person, you know, in the lineup. So to be in a diverse lineup, it's, it's an interesting experience. And it's, it is something that you, you, you can kind of let your guard down a little bit. So it was, it was... yeah, it was, it was nice. The waves weren't super big, they were kind of small, we're kind of fighting, fighting to get them, but we were able to, and like a few days get enough surf footage to put together for the film.

So, yeah, it was, it was, it was out of function and budget. We had to get it done and COVID was starting to happen. And we're like, we need to shoot this now. And I think right when I came back from the shooting of this film, I want to say in three weeks or a couple of weeks after that, that's when the country started going into lockdown.

So it kind of worked out. We literally got in at the last minute. Man, we... you and I might've been in Sayulita at the same time.

Martina: Possibly, yeah!

Lisa: ‘Cause that was, that was it for me too. And then yeah, the world went into lockdown.

Martina: Yeah. Yeah.

Lisa: Wow. Wow. And then also, so Textured Waves was part of the paddle out for unity in solidarity, right?

Martina: Yeah.

Lisa: What part did your, what part did Textured waves play in that?

Martina: So we helped do some of the background stuff with like getting permits and things and, you know, making sure that was... ‘cause, you know, keep in mind, we're still in time of COVID and we need to make sure that while this is an important message, we do this safely. And the people who show up, you know, come, come show up. We say the message. And then also are able to go home safely and healthy with their health back to their family. So it was a lot of logistics planning. I wasn't physically there, so Danielle, the other co-founder, she was there. She lives in Oceanside. So she was local to the event. So she was there and she was able to speak a few words, I believe. And Sal was there. But in terms of our role, it was more like background type stuff. Just making sure that it was going to be safe. You know, we want to let the community know.

And also at this time, keep in mind in the context of this is when some of the protests around the world were starting to get a little violent and we didn't want that. So we wanted to make sure we had everything in place to ensure a safe and a peaceful moment where our community could come together and kind of grieve over, not just George Floyd, but basically the state of our country and what we're going through as, you know, African Americans, you know. And I'm so happy that we were able to achieve it. You know, there was no incidents, you know, we paddled out, it was very peaceful. I've seen videos from the event. And still to this day, we get people constantly emailing us, DMing us, just thanking us for holding this because it was a forum for them to grieve, you know? So. Really really beautiful stuff, but logistic stuff, background stuff. That's what we handled.

Lisa: Yeah. That was super powerful. I watched an Instagram… an Instagram live video of you kind of speaking again about media representation. And I'm curious if you would be willing to share any tips to brand managers and different brands who are wanting to honor, you know, diversifying their imagery without being tokenizing or like what, what tips do you have to brands who just like, don't know what they're doing, but they want to get involved?

Martina: Yeah. You know, I like to say it's a 12 step program and it's not, there's not one thing to do, right? There is, I think, a multitude of things to do. For one, you know, of course, being aware of the imagery that you're putting out and you know, making sure that you are understanding that when you're putting out an image of your brand, you're putting out an image of who you think your customers should be, or who are the type of people that you feel, in a way, “these are the people I want to design for.” Right? And if the images out there don't encompass the ethnic breadth of what we have in the United States, I think that can be problematic. And I think, you know, just to take, you know, an honest look at your imagery, at your campaigns past and present, and really try to, you know, make sure that you're including, all types of diversities and ethnicities, not just blacks. Asian, Spanish, Hispanic, Latino, the whole gambit.

And also I think another thing that's important is…. a lot of this stuff needs to be addressed internally as well. So who are the people who are on your marketing team? Right? Who are the people who, who are your buyers, who are the people who are, you know, working internally who are behind the scenes? And if, if it all looks like one person, you know, I think that's, that's a problem. And I think, you know, brands should really, really consider diversifying their internal board as well as they do their imagery. Because I think that when brands do that, I think then that the imagery that comes out of that comes off more authentic and less tokenized than when… we've all been seeing a lot lately, a brand, you know, right after their black square, they threw a black girl in there and they're like, I'm all about diversity. And then they went back to normal, you know. So that's not what you want to do, but I think that comes from making several changes, not only on your image and externally, but internally as well.

Lisa: Yeah, we think it's, you know, extremely important to who's behind the camera as well as who's in front of the camera.

Martina: Correct.

Lisa: You know, and who, who did most of the camera work on Sea Us Now?

Martina: It was... her name is Bethany Mellonkof, and she is a woman of color. And we were very intentional that we wanted a woman of color to shoot us because historically when white photographers have shot us, they don't... I guess they don't understand the lighting and how to make our skin tone look the best or, you know, how we see our skin tone anyway.

I don't know if you've been following, but Simone Biles was on the cover of Vogue recently. And, there's been a little bit of a controversy there because like her skin tone - and, you know, Vogue has done this several times, especially with girls with really dark complexion - there's a lot of like gray tones. The way they did the lighting and the camera work or the editing afterwards, I'm not sure why. So there's been like this mini social media campaign of people going in, I guess African-American photographers and trying to fix the lighting, you know, just to show the reason why you need diversity, not only behind the camera, but in front of the camera.

Yeah. I mean, there's so many things, but yeah, so we, we wanted to work with Bethany because she understood that, right, being an African American woman herself. And, yeah, so she shot us beautifully and she shot us how we saw ourselves.

Lisa: Oh man. And it's a beautiful film. Where, where can people find it online? It's on the Textured Waves website, right?

Martina: It's on the Textured Waves website. It's on the Seea website as well. And I believe if they haven't taken it down already, the Seea... if you go to the Seea website, they have the film as well as the companion conversation we did with the film. So all the founders are on there and we did a Q and A, and Sal moderated it, and it was a great discussion about... it's a great companion piece of the film. The film itself is only four minutes long, but yeah, You can find it on our site, the Seea site.

Lisa: Cool. Is there anything that I didn't ask you that you'd like to share with our audience?

Martina: You didn't ask me how the waves were! [laughs] It's been pretty amazing here. We've been enjoying some really fun South swell here in Hawaii. So.

Lisa: Yeah, you're in a good spot.

Martina: Yeah. The waves have been amazing. They've been so fun and so, so great. I don't think I've surfed so much consecutively in such a long time, I’ve been out there every single day, sometimes twice a day, it’s just nonstop, just super fun south swell, longboard waves, so.

Lisa: Awesome. Cool. Thank you so much for your time today. Where can people follow you online?

Martina: So Textured Waves handle is obviously @texturedwaves on Instagram. My handle is @duranmc, and that's where you can find me and follow me. But I suggest following Textured Waves if you don't already cause they, their content is way more well put together than what's on page. Which is pretty random. So yeah.

Lisa: Cool. Well, thank you so much.

Martina: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you very much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Iris: Thank you so much for joining us on the show, Martina. And to our listeners, you can find all her links in the show notes. And if you'd like you can head to to find all of our most recent episodes as well as transcripts and where you can listen. And you can follow us @wheeliecreative on Instagram and hop in our DMs if you have any ideas on who we should feature on the show next.

Please leave us a review if you have a moment, it helps us get to more people. And with that, we hope you have a wonderful, wonderful day and we'll see you next week.

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