By Miracle Nwankwo
“I’ve dedicated my life to empowering girls of colour to get into surfing and to find the peace that they need through the sport”
We all make decisions at some point in our lives that could determine our future and that of other people. When the decisions we make affect the lives of other people positively, we contribute to the global sustainable development goals thus making the world a better place.
In efforts to make the world a better place, women in different regions are committing their bits in the way they can to better the lives of others. A leading example is Imani Wilmot, Jamaica’s best female surfer. She is not just only about surfing but more about touching the lives of young women and specifically girls of colour.
She is the daughter of Billy Wilmot, Jamaican surfing godfather and founder of the famous Jamnesia Surf Camp. Imani learned surfing at the age of eight on her father’s old board and with the help of her brothers. And at the age of ten, she started travelling and competing as a member of the Jamaican surf team.
But there was a problem. Being the island’s only female surfer was a lonely world for Imani because the women in Jamaica were restrained from going into the water. The fear of putting their hair in the saltwater, and their skin out in the sun all day, caused many women to dread the water. But for Imani, being born into Jamaica’s “first family of surf”, was an advantage so she never thought the water would cause any harm since grew up with it.
Every year Imani had to compete with the same girls from across the island due to the few numbers of women surfers. As she grew older, she realised there was a need for more girls in sport and also more girls of colour on the waves.
Being the island’s best surfer, she received support and encouragement from many people including her teachers. Oftentimes she was brought out in the assembly when she won competitions and they would praise her efforts and show off her trophies. But this continued to expose the gender gap in surf that only Imani could see.
The more this problem became glaring the more Imani was bothered. Realising the need for broader female representation in surfing, she decided to take the bull by its horn and become a pacesetter. She set up her first female surf school when she was seventeen and began to teach local women and girls the importance of surf and the impact it could have in one’s life. She taught them that surfing can be used as a powerful tool for delivering a message and driving social change.
In the first year, she had a variety of women who came together to learn how to surf. Her oldest student was 45 while the youngest was two years old. In order to encourage them, she tried to make the camp free for attendees, so she did fundraise and worked closely with the instructors.
For Imani, it was not about the money, all she wants is to see more women and girls embracing surf and using it for the right course.
Over the years, Imani has been focused on empowering women within her local community by introducing them to surfing and the healing power of the ocean in a supportive environment. Her actions have resulted in many positive transformations amongst the group of women she works with.
Through her tenacity, many women across the island, who are from rough circumstances have begun to embrace the surf. It has become a therapy to them, an escape from the streets and an alternative path from a life surrounded by violence and crime, opening up windows of economic opportunity. Surfing develops self-motivation, entrepreneurial spirit, respect for the environment and a deep sense of community.
Looking to the future, Imani aims to inspire the next generation of female Afro-Caribbean surfers and to continue as the driving force of this vital movement.
Indeed Imani Wilmot is an Amazon to Watch