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Inspiring Travelers: Elizabeth Sneed of Curvy Surfer Girl

Curvy Surfer Girl photo by Caleb HeikesPhoto by Caleb Heikes

As travelers, we've all experienced the feeling of being in a space where we may look different from others, have different cultural perceptions, or simply not feel that we fit in right away. While putting yourself out there and experiencing new things is one of the best parts about traveling, it can also sometimes be the hardest. The travel industry is rife with influencers who all look vaguely the same, in the latest styles of the smallest sizes, that travel to all of the same luxury locations, and generally promote a lifestyle that's simply not attainable for most of us. By placing unrealistic expectations on who can travel and how they do it, the urge to travel or try something new is often not acted upon because of societal expectations. Unfortunately, the surf industry is no different.

As you may know, I'm a terrible surfer, even though I've done it my entire life. Back in the day, it was exciting to see women in general getting recognition in the surf world, even if they didn't look like me. But as I got older, and social media became more prevalent, it became clear that the notion of what a "surfer girl" looked like wasn't changing much- tanned, blonde, and skinny. This isn't surprising. Surfing is one of the most athletic sports one can participate in. ESPN even polled special panelists on the world's toughest sports, who placed surfing at the 23rd hardest out of 60 sports. It's no surprise that many surfers are "in shape" in the traditional sense. But I've seen surfers of all different shapes, sizes, ages and abilities in the water but never that prominently featured in the industry. Until recently, that is. 

Late one night, trying to psych myself up for an upcoming surf trip to Costa Rica, I was perusing Instagram and stumbled upon a post from Curvy Surfer Girl, a profile for a surfer named Elizabeth Sneed. Not only was Elizabeth a plus-size surfer looking happy and healthy in a bikini, she was shredding! I spent probably the next hour scrolling through her profile, and quickly realized that Elizabeth was an athlete in every sense of the word. She hikes, she free dives, she surfs and looks damn good doing it all. I loved her message of being a "body positive surfer" and of course, all of the scenic Hawaiian surf spots Elizabeth posted. I saw in Elizabeth something powerful- the love of surfing and all it has to offer regardless of what others thought.

As with the surf industry, there are more and more travelers pushing the boundaries of what people expect them to do based on the way that they look. I can't tell you how many clients have lamented over the fact that they couldn't go rock climbing, scuba diving, hiking or any number of more adventurous activities because they thought they weren't physically fit enough or didn't think they'd look good in a bathing suit. But Liz was here to show people that they could do whatever they put their mind to! Seeing someone who looks like the average American kicking ass in a sport dominated by those who didn't look like her resonated with me, but also a ton of others. Curvy Surfer Girl amassed 10,000 followers in just 99 days! She now has over twenty thousand and has appeared in magazines, podcasts and news sites around the world. Seeing how many people were inspired by Liz inspired me and I knew I wanted to learn more, so I asked to interview her!

Where are you located?

Honolulu, HI 

What do you do when you're not surfing?

Usually administrative stuff or errands and plan for future projects & events.  

When did you start surfing? Who taught you?
I started surfing August of 2017 through the Ohana Surf Project’s Local Surf Club. 
 

Curvy Surfer Girl by Tommy PieruckiPhoto by Tommy Pierucki

Do you participate in any other sports/adventurous activities?
I’m also a certified level 1 freediver and enjoy swimming with all types of wildlife from sea turtles, dolphins, whales, sharks, manta and sting rays and much more. 

What made you start your journey as the "Curvy Surfer Girl"?
I started CSG because I never saw women like me in the line up or in photographs. It was disheartening watching the rise of body positivity and being excluded as a surfer so rather than wait for someone else to do it... I did it and created a community around body positivity and diversity in women’s surfing. 


What advice would you give to people who may be holding back on activities they want to try due to society's preconceived notions of what the typical person performing those activities "should" look like?

I think it’s important to acknowledge those feelings and then go out there and simply try the activities that interest you.  
If you love it then you know it’s for you regardless of the stereotypes associated with the activity. 

Curvy Surfer Girl Image by Tommy Pierucki


Where is your favorite place to surf?

Oahu’s South Shore 

What's the first thing that someone who wants to learn how to surf should do?
I’d highly recommend contacting a surf school to help you become familiar with the many intricacies of surfing, the ocean, safety, and etiquette.  

Have you faced any pushback from your work on expanding the image of a surfer girl? How do you deal with people that disagree with your positive message?
I’ve been surrounded by an incredible community, mentors, and daily encouragement from all directions. Occasionally there are haters but I simply block those individuals because this community has zero tolerance for disrespect, malicious comments, harassment or bullying. 

  

Curvy Surfer Girl by Tommy Pierucki

Photo by Tommy Pierucki

Who are your favorite surfers?
I really admire Risa Mara Machuca of Mexico, Suelen Naraisa of Brazil, John Michael Van HohensteinChelsea Lewis (my surf instructor), Toots , Atilla Jobbagyi, and Ashley Ahina to list a few... And all the curvy surfers rocking the waves! 

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