For a Group of South Bay Women Who Surf, the Best Healing Comes with Friendship, Love and the Ocean

Across the board.

  • Category
    Health, People
  • Written by
    Tanya Monaghan
  • Photographed by
    Ken Pagliaro

“The first thing is the morning sunlight on the sea’s surface, then reflected in your friend’s eyes turned your way to say hello. Then there’s the beginning glide of the board just before you catch your first wave. At the same time, the back of your body feels the warmth of them watching and wanting to applaud even before you stand up. Surf sisters. Of course, we’re all busy at improving and pushing our bodies to do just a little more than we think we can. Because we want to feel that surf dance that’s also a kind of flight. Your whole world slows down, just for a bit. But in that moment, you find it. You’re free. Every go-out is a chance to birth something. Another try, another turn, another dream and, most often, just one more wave. Together, these women of the water, they make me believe I can be more. That I really am more than I thought. They call me out toward the break, because they’re already in. Their friendship tugs me there like a lifeline. The ocean surrounds us all in its embrace, but these women are its eyes. They are my brightest beach treasures. My pearls. My tribe. My family.”

Beth Lee, Duquesne Di Mauro and Kari Boiler

Beth Lee, the eldest of a group of women surfers, wrote these beautiful words as a tribute to her “surf sisters.” She is one of the original members who found lifelong friendship and healing in the ocean. Beth is wise, loving and spiritual but also the one to charge any wave with gusto. She’s sometimes out there on days that the waves are so big, no one else is in the water. The rest of the women just watch in awe from The Strand, ensuring she makes it out of the water alive.

We are blessed to live in a place with access to miles of wide-open beaches, inviting us to live a healthy lifestyle connected to nature. This group of surfers takes full advantage of this privilege. They are all incredible women in their own right—each quite different, but all sharing a love for surf. Their passion and energy are contagious, and their shared bond in friendship through surfing is palpable. It has become a sisterhood.

Lenie Ramos Trent

Though many of the women have surfed for years, the group officially began in 2013. Each day begins with a group text and invitation to morning-surf between 32nd and 35th streets in North Manhattan Beach. Lenie Ramos Trent, one of the original members, is also a well-known yogi and a firecracker. An incredible short- and longboarder, she always keeps things fun and encouraging.

“When I started surfing, there were very few women in the water,” she remembers. “Now when I paddle out, you always see bright smiles from the ladies out there, and it’s even a bonus when it’s one of your mermaid sisters. We share the waves. We scream and yell for one another. We are our own support system.”

Duquesne Di Mauro

She says the women do so much while in the lineup of men, like greeting the blank stares with smiles or “good-mornings.” They also talk about their kids, the errands they need to complete, family stories and the best waves of the day.

“All the men listening can’t help but want to be included, be heard, and they soften,” she adds. “There’s really no clear way to describe the cathartic, healing power of being in the ocean, but the ladies who paddle with me know. That’s the common bond we share as women, moms, wives and sisters.”

Duquesne Di Mauro, a little powerhouse, arrives fit and fresh-faced with a warm energy. In the group’s first year, they clocked 173 days in the water, she mentions.

Above: Beth Lee

“There are so many life lessons in the lineup,” shares Duquesne. “It’s all about just showing up. I find my center out there, and it emulates real life. The waves are always changing, and you have to do your best to learn how to ride what’s in front of you. To have such a warm group of girls—a sisterhood in the water just rooting you on all the time—is truly special. Through my hard times, I don’t know what I would have done without the water and my girls. Surfing is healing.”

Diana Branda, known as the auntie to all of their kids, works at Leon Max Inc. and volunteers with A Walk on Water yet still finds time to surf seven days a week. Kari Boiler, a life coach, says surfing is one of her top five gifts that she has given herself.

“Surfing is my meditation and where I completely turn down the dial on my loud brain,” she says. “It’s quiet, it’s physical, it’s nature, it’s new every single day and it’s where I connect with friends that inspire me. The encouragement of our crew changed ‘I can’t do that’ to ‘maybe I can.’ I give credit to these women and am so grateful.”

Lenie Ramos Trent

Jennifer Nielsen, the most recent addition to the group, describes what the crew means to her. “I have never been a part of something where I feel so uplifted and supported by a group of women—in not only surfing but in my everyday life,” she says. “I always leave the water feeling refreshed and invigorated, since these girls create a comfortable open platform where lineup soul confessions often end with us adding a couple extra drops of saltwater to the sea. The world is so heavy right now, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed. But with the help of these ladies and the crashing yet calming waves, I am able to let go, giggle and glide into the sunset.”

The pandemic-induced closedown of the beaches offered a stark reminder of how incredibly fortunate we are to have access to the ocean and surfing. The women felt its absence deeply. Tragic, stressful, confusing and worrying for all, the women also lost their place to bond and to share new possibilities and perspectives.

The last several months have reminded them of the importance of their group and how they could support each other through a difficult time. With every crashing wave comes another and a renewed chance to stay afloat and ride as one.

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