Mimi Miller doesn’t fit the cultural stereotype of a tanned svelte bikini-wearing surfer girl. She’s a 48-year-old curvaceous Black grandmother from Detroit, where 60 degrees feels like a heatwave.
But Miller is among a growing number of Black women who are redefining the surfer girl cliché. Black female surfers are reimagining their fitness preference to ride SoCal’s ubiquitous waves, no matter their age, weight, or size.
In their pursuit of wave-crushing happiness, Black women surfers from San Luis Obispo to San Diego are transcending racial stereotypes and a male-dominated sport.
What makes Miller so unique is she seems to embody the “let’s go” spirit of the bohemian beach lifestyle even though she’s a very recent transplant. Consequently, she is often invited to make appearances and requested by businesses to represent them or use their products.
Question: What brought you to Southern California?
Answer: “I moved here to have a relationship with the ocean and have a ‘beach life.’ I was afraid of the water for the first three years until I met a champion bodyboarder who taught me about the ocean. He took me up and down the coast to bodyboard. He asked me one day why I am ‘so comfortable’ in the ocean and yet never had any experience in it? I said it was like ‘once I was in,’ I was in love.”
Q: When did you decide to surf?
A: “We were at the beach one day, and I saw two Black men with surfboards getting out of the water. I was in shock and asked if I could take a picture with them. I posted it on Facebook and one of my friends told me about a Black Surfers Collective. I had my first free surf lesson there. I had been bodyboarding for eight months every single week prior to that. Once I took a lesson, it was easy to make that transition.”
Q: How long did it take you to master standing on the surfboard?
A: “I am still learning to surf. It took me almost six months to stand up and ride a wave in. I paid for three months of lessons in Seal Beach and after that, I was in the water so much, people would give me surfing tips. I also watched over 200 surf documentaries.”
Q: Do you surf with other African-Americans?
A: “In the beginning, I mostly surfed with other African-Americans. I have surfed with other Black women when I do see them in the ocean. I believe more Black women are getting into surfing because we’ve always had a natural draw to the ocean because of our history (as slaves from various islands).”
Q: Have you ever had any encounters with racism?
A: “Some of the comments I’ve received are, ‘Can you get your hair wet?’ ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ But mostly they (surfers) don’t talk out loud and say rude things.”
Q: Surfing is still a male-dominated recreational sport. Do the boys play fair?
A: “Some men can be very territorial and ‘a-holes,’ but others are very welcoming if you understand surf etiquette, which is not putting others in danger as well as yourself.”
Q: Why is surfing your preference for fitness or wellness?
A: “Surfing has been amazing with enhancing my meditation practice as well as spiritual growth. Surfing is more physical than most sports. You use all your muscles. It enhances coordination, balance, timing, and instincts. My current fitness goals are to drop down a few sizes, take my yoga practice to the next level, more Pilates and strength training, and increase my underwater training to surf heavier waves. The training doesn’t ever stop. It’s a journey, not a destination.”
Q: How has surfing changed your life?
A: “Surfing has changed my life significantly. My life revolves around the surf life, environmental protection, and being a ‘green ambassador.’ My future goals with surfing are to surf around the world, to speak about surfing and holistic health and introduce my surf brand called Surf Chica.