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Gigi Lucas Shares Lessons She’s Learned on and off the Surfboard

Gigi Lucas Shares Lessons She’s Learned on and off the Surfboard

Doing what feels natural and trusting your gut are important topics we discussed during BGN’s interview with Gigi Lucas surfer, advocate, and founder of SurfearNegra and Surf the Turf.

Take me back to that first surf lesson. What were you feeling?

“To be honest, it felt so natural that it wasn’t even a second thought. I am a very logical person, and since it was second nature, I thought, ‘Why am I not doing this?’ The next thought was, ‘How can I do this more?'”

Lucas’ recap of her first surf experience made me reflect on how being in that natural state of flow and ease is something few people experience. Lucas responded by mentioning that people, especially Black women, follow preconceived notions from society and do what’s expected of them. Hence, Lucas left her corporate job to surf in Costa Rica.

When you moved and started pursuing surfing, what were people’s reactions?

“I have this council of people who all think differently. The only question from my elders was to think about my financial planning. Go where your heart is, but be responsible. I didn’t have anyone in my life who told me I shouldn’t do it. I’ve made it a practice to have people who will give it to me straight but not naysayers. Everything is possible, but it may not be possible right now. If I have people in my life who say I can’t do something, I ease on out. They don’t have a place in my life.”

We further discussed how to cultivate an environment of people who are supportive. Lucas’ advice was to trust our gut. Our instinct usually tells us when someone is good or bad for us, and it’s our job to listen.

Lucas continued to introduce a different point of view. She shared that an overbearing or negative voice can come from her instead of other people. She combats these moments by checking in with herself often and assessing what she is doing against what she wants the intended outcome to be.

What was it like being the only Black girl in the surf lineups when you started surfing?

“Being the only one wasn’t something new to me. Costa Rica is a diverse country. It wasn’t until years later that I saw African Americans traveling for vacation, and they would never get in the water. Every time people saw me with a surfboard, they were flabbergasted. And I thought, ‘Why?'” I started to notice that there aren’t a lot of us doing what I’m doing. We think it’s natural to have no relationship with the water, but it’s not.”

Lucas also reflected on how the segregation in the south has contributed to seeing fewer Black bodies in the water.

What is an average day like for you? Are there any typical days?

“I wish there were an average day. [Laughs.] The day flows based on what projects and events are coming up. I am a recovering type-A personality, and I like order. I try to find balance, but what we’re doing every day changes.”

Could you share some updates on SurfearNEGRA? How is it growing?

“The 100 Girls is cranking along. Even though the program will always be called 100 girls, we will add a zero to that, to get 1,000 girls in the water. We’re not quite there yet, but that’s the goal. As far as our land-based program, Surf the Turf, there are a lot of exciting things happening that will help us optimize our reach. We’re positioning the organization to be future-proof so we can deliver on our mission to make surfing accessible to any child anywhere.”

What transformations have you seen within the girls you’ve sent to surf camps?

“We’re on our fourth summer of sending girls to surf camps, and some of these kids are good and coming into their own. Their only passion is competing. They do it because they love it, and you can see it. They have their own style. They’re learning the tides and ocean safety to become ambassadors for the next girls.”

With this explanation, I imagined surfing as a canvas with endless creation. Lucas replied, “Surfing is a board, a swimsuit, and some wax. Yet there is so much you can do with it both in and out of the water.”

If you could play a song while surfing, what song would it be?

Breezin’ by George Benson. The vibe reminds me of the first question you asked me. It feels natural, like it’s supposed to be there.”

What keeps you going, and what keeps you inspired, especially when you encounter setbacks?

“I’m always remembering that it’s bigger than myself. Real entrepreneurs will tell you this. You have more hard days than good. What keeps me going is recognizing that I was called to do this. I’m thankful for my council and my circle of people. They help me keep everything in perspective. When I get those glimpses of one of the girls surfing and how it impacts their lives and who they are, it reminds me why I do this. This is more than me taking a pretty picture on the board. This is for our girls and the girls who grow up to be women who look like us and for them to know their power.”

In a segue, Lucas referenced the Civil Rights Movement protests in St. Augustine, Florida, mentioning how freedom fighters of the past fought for something they knew they weren’t going to see. But they knew that it was bigger than themselves. Although surfing is not quite the Civil Rights Movement, Lucas knows that there is importance in what she is doing.

How have you seen yourself expand over the years — both big and small expansions?

“I’ve learned to use my voice and to speak the truth kindly, but not necessarily in a nice way — but in a fair way. I was very conscious of how people viewed me, as a tall Black woman with a deep voice. I used to temper it a lot, but now I don’t. I heard a saying that says you don’t always have to be seen to be heard.”

What would you say to each BGN reader’s inner child?

“Do things that make your heart sing. Laugh often. It’s easy to get caught up in the quest to be perfect. Be present, laugh, and be joyful. When we’re there, we are healthier and our minds are clearer. I can’t tell you how many women when they smile — I don’t care if they have one tooth — are stunning. When we are living in joy and enjoying ourselves, that’s when we are living life.”

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