It’s never been a question while raising my daughters, now three and six.They will be surfer girls. We are a family of surfers. My dad, sisters, and my husband are bonded by the thrills you get from the ocean and a love for being in the water. It was always just understood that when I had kids of my own one day, they would surf too. My husband and I talked about when our kids would get their first surfboard as an honorary rite of passage. So when we had our daughters, we immediately started filling their heads with surf propaganda. The poor kids never had a chance. Limited screen time? Absolutely, unless you want to re-watch Endless Summer with Dad for the eighth time. I can’t even begin to count the pictures of naked babies and toddlers on surfboards that filled up my Facebook feed those first few years.
But something always nagged me in the back of my mind. Toys and books that were available to our little girls didn’t always reflect the life we lived as a family. As I looked for books to snuggle up with my girls and push my not-so-hidden agenda, they all featured boys in action sports or girls in nonaction sports. There wasn’t a female character my daughters could relate to who was strong, athletic, and graceful. This missing message just didn’t align with what we were teaching our daughters. We wanted to encourage them to be brave, adventurous risk takers. I wanted to find books and toys that showed my girls that there were other little girls enjoying surfing too (and skateboarding…and snowboarding…and the list goes on). I resigned myself to this idea that I would have to work extra hard to be their role model, and when I stumbled across the occasional YouTube video of a little girl surfing, we would enjoy that together.
Then the day came when my five-year-old asked for her first surfboard. She wanted a pink one. My husband and I exchanged some proud side glances. Our subtle campaign was working so we enthusiastically obliged. Pink beater board tucked under my arm, holding her hand, we walked to the ocean ready to go. She looked at the ocean and then at me and said “Umm. Maybe when I’m six.” She was scared and I was heartbroken. How could this even be an issue? She had wanted the board. She was the one asking to go to the beach. Everyone was all smiles until it was go time. I knew she was wrestling with an internal conflict between something that scared her and something she wanted to do. After some reassurance that we were not going far and it would be fun, she decided to give it a try. We had a blast and I had my mommy epiphany. I would write a book. A book about a little girl who was nervous and scared. A little girl that had to be brave and preserve to try something new.
OK, so that was easy. I’ll just write a book. Done. One small problem, though. I’m not an artist. I needed an illustrator, so I called my sister, Jessica, who was in New Zealand (surfing and traveling) who immediately jumped on board. We shared stories about our own perceptions of women in surf culture and how it affected our own interest in the sport as young girls. We believed that little girls everywhere needed to be able to see themselves represented in the activities and passions their families want to share with them. From there, it didn’t take long for Queenie Wahine: Little Surfer Girl to start coming to life.
We started writing Queenie Wahine because we want to encourage girls to get out in the ocean, play, be brave, and try new experiences. The life lesson that we have learned from paddling out are ones that we carry with us and have shaped our adult personalities. Perseverance, bravery, humility, patience, and respect are just a few that the ocean has taught us all at one point. We believe that little girls who love the ocean, grow up to be women advocating to protect it.