At 67-years-of-age, Jeanne Fernandez-McShane had never picked up a surfboard before moving to Costa Rica from New York in October of 2020. She wasn’t athletic as a child and was discouraged from participating in sports because she was a girl.
Her story, along with many other female surfers of Nosara, Costa Rica, has been brought to life through a new book called Nature of Surf Women by Ivana Bajic. The book offers both a visual and audio journey into the lives of these women.
“It sounded like a great way to promote a non-sexualized vision of women who surf - irrespective of age or body type. I loved the idea of connecting with other women around this idea, too,” says Jeanne.
“My relationship with the ocean is personal. I take what she is willing to give me. Sometimes I'm grateful. Sometimes we fight. Sometimes she makes me smile so wide I can barely contain it. Sometimes she slaps me upside the head because I deserve it.
I hope this book might allow people to see that surfing is accessible to women of any age. There is still a lot of work to be done in this regard.
“I think the idea of this project is important for women globally. More effort should go into eliminating bias against women in sports and body shaming against women who don't possess Hollywood-perfect bodies. I hope this book might allow people to see that surfing is accessible to women of any age. There is still a lot of work to be done in this regard.”
Seasoned surf instructor Jo Pickett, who also lives in Costa Rica and features in the book, said: “This project creates another human expression of the global rise in recognising the abilities and potentials of girls and women.”
Surf photography can come in many forms. Sure, we all love a gurgling, spitting behemoth straight out of some backless beast, but there’s also room for the more subtle, nuanced variety, like capturing emotions and faces around the art of wave riding.
“We have photographed 30 women from ages 12 to 67 of all body types, ethnicities, and abilities in the water creating a unique artistic image that represents the beauty and strength of the female body. In their own unique ways, they have all been transformed by surfing,” says author Ivana.
Photographer Gabriela Tellez was also a part of the documenting process. “We wanted to approach surfers from an unconventional perspective and break the stereotypes that persist in traditional surf photography. The book consists of 22 stories of individual journeys, best friends adventuring together, family challenges, finding surf buddies as well as mother-daughter bonding.”
Local 19-year-old surf instructor Nalia Quiros also shares her story in the book. “I have a photo of my Dad and I from when I was just a baby, he’s holding me on a surfboard. I think that surf is in my blood. I spend two hours every day in the water surfing, improving, and practicing. That is my sacred time - I need it to reconnect with myself and be happy.
“Surf can change your life completely. Spending time in the water, you learn to appreciate nature and share with others. Young girls can benefit even more by seeing the capacity of their body - the strength and flexibility - surfing is such a powerful feeling that makes you physically and mentally stronger.”
Nature of Surf Women features QR codes, taking you through an immersive experience of the lives of these unique women, all with the mutual appreciation and love for the ocean and surfing.
“A highlight of this book is the recordings of stories of personal transformation, adaptation to life in the jungle, and love of riding the waves, all mixed with the sounds of nature in Costa Rica. Legendary audio naturalist Martyn Stewart created the atmosphere that provides an emotional connection between the audience and the surfer, offering an immersive journey into the lives of these women,” says Ivana.
“Our hope in making this book is that not only will many women identify with those on its pages but also that they might be inspired to grab a board and go surf.”