Wollongong surf group ‘Gong Gurfers’ urges women to get in the water | Mercury of Illawarra

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This time last year Wollongong girls Elecia Parrott and Madelyn Spencer stood on the beach wishing they knew how to surf. Now they’re making waves in the surf community (and catching them too). Mrs Parrott and Mrs Spencer run the ‘Gong Gurfers’ group for female surfers in Wollongong. It’s a community of girl surfers for all ages and skill levels, aiming to break down the barriers of bullying that keep girls out of the waves. Since launching a challenge in September to surf every day for a month, the girls have not missed a single day in the water and have inspired a group of other young women to dive with them. What started as a group chat to arrange surfing meetups with other newbies has turned into a community for girls to overcome their fears. “We didn’t know how to surf, which I think is why so many girls felt they could show up and come without expectations, because it’s not like we were professional surfers. We’re crazy too. “said Ms Spencer. noted. “We all sort of learn along the way. We’re not professionals, so we’re literally giving our advice that we learned on our short surf trip,” Ms Parrott said. Surfing can be intimidating for beginners, especially when everyone in the water looks like a pro, they said. “It can be difficult – you have the aspect of water, you have to learn how to ride that piece of foam, and all the other stuff. It’s so daunting,” Ms Parrott said. “We’ve experienced it first hand. And you know, we want to create an environment where girls feel supported and not intimidated.” Read more: Mahalia Barnes joins Olympian Anna Meares for Wollongong’s International Women’s Day event The community they’re building doesn’t just end when surfboards are strapped to roof racks. Gong Gurfers hosts get-togethers of all kinds, from skateboarding sessions to picnics and weekend getaways, and as always, it’s an open invitation. “One of the things we’re proud of is that it’s not like, ‘Okay, we have five girls now. Okay, we have 20 girls now’. It’s so free and At our gatherings and meetings we get at least one new person every time, so we’re always growing,” Ms Spencer said. Gong Gurfers are part of a movement of female surf groups springing up in Australia, from the Groove Girls on the Gold Coast to Hobart’s Salt Sisters. The movement is about connecting through surfing and creating an inclusive space for girls in the water. “There are all these groups but we are connected by the same ambition to connect, to celebrate femininity. I reach out to them and there is no competition because we all have the same goals, we are all literally in the same boat,” Ms Spencer said. Since learning to surf in September, Ms Parrott and Ms Spencer have been hitting the waves every day for 181 days straight. They’ve taken on the challenge of surfing every day for a year, raising money for Surf Aid, a charity that connects communities through surfing. With too much free time during lockdown, surfing was the perfect outlet. “It’s disconnecting, because that you get there and you can disconnect and just be in the waves, but it’s also connecting at the same time. You connect with people, you connect with nature. I love it,” Ms Parrott said. For Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. Parrott, the community they’ve built is something to be proud of, and now that they’re in the water, you never take them out again. Read more: Surfing NSW announces local surf groups on Shark Incident Response Program


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