Women + Waves, in conversation with Rachel Murphy

by Ed Scott

Over the last 10 years, women's surfing has ballooned in popularity. Women now make up between 20 and 30 percent of the surfing community, and that number continues to grow.

Rachel Murphy is one of those women. She’s the founder and director of Women + Waves, an all-female surfing collective with the goal of bringing women from around the world together through surfing.

With surfing about to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo, we spoke to Rachel about the thriving women's surfing movement.

women and waves rachel murphy

The story of Women + Waves

Born and raised in Cornwall, a surfing hotspot, Rachel has worked in the surfing industry since the age of 16.

The ocean was my playground. When I moved to Newquay, I made a lot of friends from outside Cornwall who loved the seaside but didn’t necessarily understand the sea.” 

Recognising people’s need for a gateway into surfing, she founded Women + Waves in 2017, with the goal of uniting water-loving women in a friendly surf club environment. “It didn’t matter how good they were or if they just wanted to dip their toes in. It was just about getting in the water, washing the day away and having fun.” 

Through Women + Waves, Rachel and her team offer female-only surfing holidays and retreats around the world, from Costa Rica to El Salvador to Morocco. But Newquay, a place Rachel still calls home, is where Women + Waves holds regular, beginner-friendly surfing sessions.

women and waves newquay beach

Why surfing?

Rachel’s passion for sharing the benefits of surfing drives Women + Waves. “The sea has so many health benefits, for both your mental and physical health,” she told us. “It’s good for your skin, your body, your circulation, and it’s just a really good way of clearing your head. And if you’re accessing the sea by surfing, it’s even more addictive. It’s a really healthy hobby to have.”

Since 2017, the Women + Waves community has gone from strength to strength, with almost 5000 members in the community’s dedicated Facebook group. “When you put a load of women together, it makes it really fun. And there’s also maybe a little bit of a, ‘She is doing it, so I can do it’ kind of attitude.” 

Rachel believes the success of Women + Waves is a testament to people’s need for a sense of community to help them get started in surfing. “The biggest barrier in surfing is self-belief. A lot of people think they’re too old or they’re not fit enough. But you really don’t have to be that fit - everyone starts as a beginner. And if you have a girl gang to go surfing with then exercise is no longer a chore, it’s a lifestyle.”

women and waves high five

The future’s bright

Rachel is dedicated to continuing to grow Women + Waves, and encourage women and girls around the world to take up surfing. “More and more women are coming out and competing,” she told us. “It’s amazing - girls are doing manoeuvres and tricks that have never been done before. It’s keeping the guys on their toes, too, which is good.”

In 2019, Rachel and her team launched a dedicated Women + Waves YouTube channel, posting regular surfing tutorials, vlogs from community retreats, and podcast interviews with movers and shakers in the surfing and wellness industry. Rachel hopes this channel and other initiatives such as the Women + Waves online store will help make the organisation a global hub for female surfing. 

“Whether you’re in Central America or up in Iceland, I would like for Women + Waves to be the ‘place to go’, a hub for female surfing. If you want advice, or if you want to know where to go, or just find people to go on a surf trip with, we want to empower women to get together and have a great experience on the water.” 

women and waves hands up on the beach

If you’re interested in joining Women + Waves for a surfing session, head to their website for more information about upcoming events. 

Want to book a surfing session near you? Visit the eola marketplace to find and book your next adventure! Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for all the latest updates. 

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