Riding the wave of surfing sisterhood
Picture this. It is zero degrees on a dark wintry morning as a group of wetsuit-clad women gather on the sand at Point Roadknight.
There’s a sharp chill in the air but they greet each other warmly before grasping their boards and paddling out into the surf.
They are a diverse bunch with one thing in common – all are Surf Coast mums living somewhere between Torquay and Wye River and each has a fervent desire to ride the waves.
These ladies are self-proclaimed “murfers” – mum surfers with varying degrees of experience from total beginner through to those wanting to hone their skills.
Leading the way is Tiff Riggs – a Torquay-based performance coach and former competitive surfer whose world travels to coach and conduct retreats were put on hold due to COVID.
The change of pace presented Tiff with a new and unexpected calling.
“There was a bunch of mums at Anglesea playgroup in March last year and they were all talking about how they would love to go surfing and some were watching YouTube videos trying to figure it all out,” Tiff, a mum-of-two, explains.
“One of them contacted me and asked if I would take them for lessons and I was like ‘nah, I don’t do that’. But they kept pestering me and I was like ‘alright, I’ll do it’.”
Eight mums turned up at Point Roadknight on day one.
Fast forward to 2021 and there are now about 50 murfers in this tight-knit group.
“It has just grown into this thing,” a humble Tiff says, smiling. “We do weekly sessions but some come fortnightly or just whenever they can fit it in with their commitments with kids, school and work.
“They all do it for different reasons – some want to learn to surf, some love socialising and during COVID it was a chance to get out of the house and come together.”
Tiff takes a holistic approach which includes passing on an appreciation of the ocean and surfing etiquette.
“I teach them a bit of everything, not just how to surf, but also surf forecasting and the lifestyle of surfing,” she says.
“Everyone is on their own journey but we are doing it together and helping each other and being supportive.
“There are murfers everywhere, it’s like a thing and ours is just growing huge which I guess is because I’m here to help and instruct and give them goals and things to work on.
“They’ve all come from everywhere and they are all amazing women who are so diverse in what they do.”
Many were new to the area and say it was an ideal way to make friends.
That was the case for Hannah Jenkins who says she’s forever grateful Tiff gave the group a chance.
“I was YouTube videoing how to surf and I hired a board and went out and nearly died,” she recalls.
Michelle Cummins counts herself among those who were total beginners.
It took a month before she caught her first wave. It was worth the wait.
“It’s something you don’t forget and you definitely get a feeling of being connected to the ocean,” she says.
“Being out in the water is good for the mind, body and soul.”
Anglesea’s Amanda Diblasi is proud to show her two girls, Delilah and Ezra, that girls can surf.
“I think it’s role modelling for my girls … getting out in the water and showing them that it is not just for guys out there is the best thing.”
Michelle agrees wholeheartedly.
“It’s lovely to see mums being positive role models for our kids … stepping out of our comfort zone,” she says. “And Tiff is just an inspiration to all of us girls.”
“She’s sunshine in a person,” Hannah adds. “She is all about the mums and us getting out there and giving it a crack and pushing ourselves.”
For Laura Callea, the group is a “bubble of all round positivity”.
“I can’t surf at the moment because I’m pregnant and it’s the number one thing that I miss,” she says.
“It was such a self-care act I think – socially, physically, mentally – the fresh air and getting to know the ocean.”
Emily Gilbert, from Moggs Creek, had surfed a little before joining the murfers.
“For me, it’s really been about the friendships, it’s better than any coffee group or playgroup because we are being challenged and learning something new,” she says.
“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and each other in the process. It’s the best.”
So, what does Tiff see as the group’s greatest achievement?
“The friendships that have been made, for sure, and how much they have improved in a 12-month timeframe,” she says.
“We’ve had girls who are scared of the waves and now they are out the back, catching green waves confidently and teaching others.
“It’s amazing to be part of it.”