Meet Jessa Williams: Founder of Intrsxtn Surf
We recently chatted with Jessa Williams, founder of Intrsxtn Surf. Jessa and other members are featured in the JOLYN Surf SS23 Collection Campaign.
What was the inspiration behind starting Intrsxtn?
When I started surfing, I quickly realized that my experience as a beginner surfer was going to be shaped, in part, by my identity. The line up did not usually have much diversity. Simply put, most of the Black surfers were male, so they fit in in a way that I didn’t. And most of the women surfers were white, so they fit in in a way that I didn’t. I wanted other Black women and WOC to be able to experience surfing in a way that made them feel welcome, and safe, and seen. Intrsxtn Surf was born out of that experience. It was my effort to take what was a less than ideal experience for me and attempt to make it better for other women like me. I decided to create a space for that myself, and named the collective Intrsxtn Surf, as a play on the word “intersectionality,” a term which describes how peoples’ multiple identities interact to create unique patterns of marginalization.
Since Intrsxtn began, what’s been your favorite moment? What are you most looking forward to?
There have been so many great moments I’ve had because of our Intrsxtn Surf community. My favorite moments are seeing someone who’s come to one of our meetups catch their first wave. It’s such a rush! Seeing the smiles and excitement on someone’s face at that moment is the best feeling.
I’m most looking forward to seeing Intrsxtn Surf grow into an even bigger, stronger movement, so that we can positively impact more WOC as we encourage them to take up space in the outdoors, to enjoy the ocean, surfing, board sports, or whatever they feel called to explore. I’m very grateful to JOLYN for your support in our efforts.
How has the collective helped overcome the challenges the community has faced in surfing?
One of the challenges for our community is access. We try to do our best to make surfing as accessible as possible by removing barriers to entry like cost of instruction and equipment for the lessons and meetups that we host. Another challenge is representation. There is very little representation of WOC in surf culture, which promotes the stereotype that surfing is “a white thing” or that “Black people don’t swim” or that surfing is only for guys. With Intrsxtn Surf, I want to share the stoke with other WOC so they know that this is for us, too! Our collective has helped so many women feel empowered to come out and try surfing for the first time, not only because the other surfers are WOC, but also because our group of instructors are too. It’s such a unique experience that’s really hard to find anywhere else.
Where can people interested in getting involved find you?
Our Instagram page is @intrsxtn_surf and we have a signup link there to be added to our email list to get connected and stay connected with our community.
What is your favorite suit from the new JOLYN Surf collection?
I really love so many pieces from the new collection! If I had to pick I would say the Catalina Island print is my favorite. The yellow is so beautiful with the darker, contrasting blues and oranges on top. My favorite cut would be the Amelia Bikini Top. It’s a unique and fun shape, but still allows for you to be active in it.
What drew you to surfing? Is there a special moment that stands out when you look back on your surfing journey?I got into surfing because my son was learning. It was so fun to learn alongside each other! It was so fun to just be in the water together and play. Intrsxtn Surf has allowed me to encourage other women to re-discover that childlike feeling of play through learning something brand new- as an adult. We recently hosted an event we called our Staycation Surf Retreat, where a group of us stayed in an amazing house on the beach and surfed all weekend long. We had this amazing night session there, where we were the only ones in the water. The lights from the pier made it just bright enough for us to surf. We were laughing and hollering and being loud and just really playing. We had so much fun that night, and we were all talking about how we felt like kids again. It was such a great time, I can’t wait to do it again at one of our upcoming retreats!
How inspiring it is to see your endeavor in trying to include everyone regardless of age, gender and ethnicity. Thank you for your hard work:)
Beautiful story Jessa! My family is very proud of your venture. Keep up the good work!