Groundswell Community Project Surf And Service trip!

Cual es tu cosa favorita sobre surfing? Cuando estoy ramando alla!

After a week of surfing together and protecting mother ocean together, they paddled out past the break for their final surf session together. Natalie paddled up next to 9 year old Maria and asked, “so what’s your favorite part about surfing?” with out a thought Maria replied with a smile like sunshine...”When I paddle out!”. For this young girl in the small fishing town of Huanchaco, Peru; to surf isn’t about catching the perfect wave or the most waves. To surf is to be bold. To surf is to break cultural norms. To surf is to be free, to surf is to belong.  She lives In a world where a girl is allowed to dream no farther than her front door, so to paddle out is to take a bold step forward in discovering her true strength, beauty, and all she has to offer in the world.

And this is what Groundswell Community Project is all about! To let Mother Ocean be a place where women around the world can find, healing, empowerment and unity.

Natalie Small, Founder of Groundswell Community Project, visited Cuba on a personal trip that unfolded into living out a life long passion for helping women discover and express their voice through surfing. Being a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California, with training in the expressive arts for trauma recovery, Natalie has traveled from Peru to the Philippines working with victims of sex trafficking, using the arts as a venue for healing and overcoming trauma. Every place her work carried her, weather it be the deep amazonian jungles or wind whipped islands she always made time for water; sailing, surfing, waterfall jumping, diving, or just floating. The water is her personal therapist. Her place to reconnect to herself, to mother earth, and to community.  When heading to Cuba she of course looked up the surf report to see what waves could be explored, it was then that she learned about the plight of surfing, how it was illegal for decades and surfers would have to sneak out on their refrigerator foam surf boards to avoid arrest. Amongst this underground surf community there was only a handful of women in the whole island that paddled out. With the wonders of the internet she was able to connect with Yaya, the main female surfer in Havana, and her trip quickly turned from a solo surf mission to a community of Surf Sisters from California with donated gear heading to cuba to give the gift of surfing to girls and women in need.

Yaya and her new Surf Sisters from California, piled into a  50’s jeep to explore the coast and came across a small fishing village on a river mouth with a beautiful peeling break. For the day, they shared the waves with the one local family that surfed there, paddled up the river to cascading waterfalls, then surfed more. Sitting on the floor of the family’s home sharing a feast of foods they had collected from the sea, Yaya and their 13 year old daughter talked and connected. Both thinking they had been the only girls in cuba that surfed, now no longer alone, now they had each found a surf sister.

It is moments like these, where the ocean connects us, holds us, humbles us, and empowers us that real healing occurs in the individual and in the community. Natalie, recognized the transformative power that Mother Ocean can have and wanted to break down the barriers that keep women from paddling out and enjoying her embrace. Thus started Groundswell Community Project! Groundswell Community Project was created with the mission to break down the barriers that keep women from entering her waves so all women have access to her healing, empowering, and uniting waves. Those barriers being lack of adequate gear, lack of ocean knowledge and safety, and lack of self confidence or cultural acceptance. Once these barriers are broken down women find freedom to play, freedom to explore their beauty and strength in her waves. And the response is women around the world wanting to save and share their new found love for mother ocean.

Locally, in San Diego, Groundswell Community Project runs therapeutic surf-sister programs serving women overcoming addiction, abuse, depression, anxiety, divorce, displacement, and negative self thoughts. These women from all different backgrounds, cultures, and stories connect in the waves exploring practices in mindfulness, yoga, body mind connection work, and of course surfing! And once the woman fall in love with Mother Ocean they are given the opportunity to give back as a community to her through ocean conservation projects and teaching surfing to communities at need.

Globally, Groundswell Community Project, helps build sustainable women empowerment surf clubs in communities where women are marginalized. Currently they have clubs launched in Peru and Cuba, where they teach ocean conservation, water safety, leaderships skills, and surfing.

For most people paddling out is the most frustrating, humbling, bring you to tears, part of surfing. But for girls like Maria, who, for the first time has found the place where she belongs, the place where she has a voice, the place where she is strong and beautiful just like the sea...the freedom to paddle out is the best part!

-- Natalie Small

Interested in learning more about Groundswell Community Project and getting involved?  Visit




Laura McHughComment