This year’s Women on Waves, taking place in Capitola this weekend on Saturday, Oct. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 23, marks the first time in the contest’s 26-year history that the event is taking place over two days rather than one.
The change came about primarily because of popular demand; however, it was also partially in response to last year’s controversy over a “backwash heat.” A midday high-tide of over five feet had women competing to catch “waves” created by the water hitting the cliffs and wall, heading back out to sea. While contestants met the unusual challenge with good spirits, it wasn’t ideal. “There could be amazing waves during high tide,” co-organizer Marisol Godinez says, “but you never know. Above all, we wanted to be able to have more participants.”
This year, there are also high tides to contend with, but the contest being spread out over the full weekend, plus the promise of more swell, means greater opportunities for participants to surf good waves. The contest’s spirit of equity and inclusion is also high: raffle boards include contributions from two surfboard makers from communities that would have been marginalized by traditional surf industry and media: BIPOC and LGBTQ+, respectively.
A longboard is up for the raffle from longtime WOW organizer Godinez, who now brings her design skills to fledgling local women’s surfboard brand Sol y Mar (Marisol spelled backwards, as well as “Sun and Sea” in her native Spanish). And Mando, a nonbinary shaper from Monterey, shaped a twin-fin fish to contribute to the raffle. Both Sol y Mar and Mando will have booth presences at Women on Waves, along with many other local artists and vendors such as swim and surfwear by co-organizer Aylana Zanville and art by Danyelle Carpenter of BabelRose.
Other new updates include the training and participation of more female judges, co-organizer Godinez says: “We’re trying to accomplish this because this is an event that’s been going on for so many years. We have to train new generations to take over since it should be happening for many years to come.”
This year’s theme, also new, is Sea Happiness, meant to raise awareness of the mental health benefits the ocean brings. The contest’s beneficiary is always connected to the theme, and co-organizers Godinez, Zanville, and Corey Grace selected the organization Sea Hugger this year, an organization that protects and heals the ocean from plastic pollution “through action and education to drive systemic change that addresses the root cause of the issue,” per the organization’s mission statement. A healthy ocean means a future where people can continue to reap its health benefits in turn. To go along further with the Sea Happiness theme, a water meditation session led by therapist Jody Priestly-Wilfong will cap off the weekend of community, competition, celebration, and support.
“We found a theme to focus on this year that would integrate the therapy part of the water and the ocean,” Godinez says, “how it brings us joy, and to have this therapy meditation session to share with the participants is really cool.”
Women of Waves happens Saturday, Oct. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 23 at 9am. Capitola Beach. $40-85. womenonwavessurfcontest.com.