Waves of Freedom: Surfing in Iran

With so many stories and images of Iran and its stalled nuclear talks filling the news, it’s easy to forget that a country is more than just its government. With a population of over 79 million, Iran is far more than President Hassan Rouhani and his politics.

SurfPhoto courtesy of Marion Poizeau

In 2010, friends Marion Poizeau and Easkey Britton traveled to Balochistan, a remote region on the Pakistan border, armed with a camera, a surfboard, and a mission. Britton, an Irish surfer, became the first woman to surf in Iran. Clad in a wet suit and a headscarf, she rode the waves while Poizeau documented the event. The resulting video attracted attention from the Internet, the Iranian police, and, most importantly, the locals. My favorite moment is a shot of two girls grinning and holding the top half a wet suit, eager to try the sport themselves.

Even after their trip ended, tales of Poizeau and Britton spread amongst Iranian sportswomen. After some planning and plenty of online correspondence, Poizeau and Britton returned to Iran in 2013 to teach. This time around, snowboarder Mona Seraji and swimmer Shahla Yasini joined Britton in the surf. The resulting experience formed the basis of Into the Sea, a documentary chronicling the development of women surfers in Iran.

For Britton, the impact of surfing extends far beyond the sport itself. Girls look up to women surfers as role models and leaders. Practicing the sport teaches women to embrace failure, to relax and let go when things get difficult, and to take risks to achieve greater success. This ability to take risks and gain confidence bleeds into all facets of a woman’s life. Confident women trust themselves and their peers and are able to push forward social change. Through their documentary, Poizeau and Britton share a perspective that contrasts strongly with Balochistan’s reputation of being a poor and dangerous area. Using surfing as a point of connection, the duo connected with the region’s citizens and dismantled perpetuated stereotypes.

Britton and Poizeau eventually returned home, but they remain committed to the cause through their non-profit, Waves of Freedom. Stay current by signing up for their newsletter or make a donation if you can.

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