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Surfer Grrrls on Bandcamp, and a dreamy new postcard!


SurferGrrrls_Final_v2I am pleased to announce that all of the songs and videos from Surfer Grrrls Brazil are now available for download at my new bandcamp page,

AND I am THRILLED to be able to advertise it, with this AMAZING postcard, created for me by my wondrous friend Cat Byun. Her art is amazing, and I think it would be awesome if we could see it everywhere, so please check her out!

Life has been pretty exciting the last few months! I wrapped up some of the work I’d been doing with the Green Guard intergenerational environmental hip hop collaboration I started this Spring, I went surfing in Hawaii, and I have had opportunities to share the work I’ve been doing around surfing, environment, hip hop, and healing at Yale University and the Bioneers conference in California.  I’ve been teaching surf lessons through Brown Girl Surf, and I’ve also started up a new Brown Girl Surf Ocean program with Girls 2000, an afterschool program for girls in the Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco.  The adventure began through Surfer Grrrls Brazil continues, with new opportunities to make friends, share my love of the ocean through music and teaching, and build the community of powerful surfer grrrls here at home!

How to cope with leaving Brazil

One of the hardest things I did before I left was selling my Brazilian surfboard.  We had so many great adventures together it was hard to say goodbye!  But I found a worthy new owner, Tiago, who is taking advantage of his year studying in Floripa to learn how to surf.  I am hoping he will have many more great surf adventures with the Pirate Captain surfboard.  Boas Ondas Tiago!

One of the hardest things I did before I left was selling my Brazilian surfboard. We had so many great adventures together it was hard to say goodbye! But I found a worthy new owner, Tiago, who is taking advantage of his year studying in Floripa to learn how to surf. I am hoping he will have many more great surf adventures with the Pirate Captain surfboard. Boas Ondas Tiago!

A few days ago I got on an airplane, with sand still on my feet and salt still in my hair, and left the sunkissed wide open coast of Bahia.

I landed in Florianopolis, where I had 2 hectic days to reunite with my host family, have lunches and dinners and samba dances with my beloved friends there who I hadn’t seen in over 4 months, and organize all my belongings for my flight back to the United States.   After that, I sprinted to the airport, got on a plane, and left behind the green mountains and crystal beaches of a Brazilian summer in full bloom, and landed in cold, wet, snowy New York City.  The transition has been jolting to say the least.

My mom and dad have been hosting me the past few days, and I’ve had lots of quality time to share my adventures with them and snuggle down in a warm cozy couch and reflect on my 6 month journey in Brazil.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all that I have been allowed to experience, and the incredibly kindness of the people who I met and who took me in.   To write it all down here might overwhelm my readers, the list in my journal stretches across 9 pages.

Instead I will share something else.  While I have been struggling with the fact that I miss Brazil like crazy, I have also made a list of things I can do to keep Brazil with me.  Here are a few:

Ways to Keep Brazil Close, even when you are far away.

Live in your body like they do so well in Rio, where grown ups and kids ride skateboards to the beach, because skateboards are really fun!  Where kids are always practicing carthwheels.  Where half the city surfs.  Where my friend Bocão always thought to throw a slackline in the backpack, just because its fun to challenge your body and do tricks with it.  Where I saw one of the runway traffic controllers at the airport in Rio, who looked a bit bored sitting on the edge of the runway, do a backflip just to pass the time as my airplane took off.

Be helpful and friendly to strangers, like all the people on the buses of Salvador who helped me get my surfboard over the turnstile or helped me carry my luggage down the stairwell.  It diminishes the distance between you and others, and makes the world a much gentler and kinder place.

Keep an open hearth and home – like Susana and Hugo and Daniel who took me in sight unseen in 222029_10100448777208788_1162110616_nFloripa, like Maily who housed and fed me for a week when I showed up on her doorstep and said I was a friend of her friends, like Andrew who let me sleep on his floor in Rio for 4 nights, like Colin who wove me into the life of my Bahian host family as soon as I showed up at the airport, like Bocão who made me feel a part of the Rocinha surf school community, like the staff at the gym in Floripa who shared many Ninja tricks with me, like just about everyone in Brazil.

Love, listen to, research, sing along to, and dance to Brazilian music.  It is the best in the world and will always conjure memories of the places from which it came.

Surf like a girl!  Thanks to all the girl shredders of Brazil, and especially Floripa, who brought me along with them and inspired me.

Act a little bit more like my friends in Pe de Serra, where life was less cluttered and more humane, where there was no internet, and where everyone knew everyone else, and focused their energy on caring for each other.    Where my 13 and 14 year old surf buddies Icaro and Nininho always gave their motherly next door neighbor a kiss on the cheek when they came home from school, helped her clean her yard, did their homework, kindly waited for their new friend the gringa (that’s me!) to go surf, and wooped for every wave that any of us caught.

Try thinking of money a little more like Ronaldo, who rented me the most beautiful house I had ever seen on the coast of Itacare and had the most non-capitalist outlook of any person I’d ever met.  He could have rented that house for five times the price, but he wasn’t interested in raking in dough.  He stopped by to check on me and bring me fruit, lived pretty much day to day on the rent I paid him, had no cell phone, went swimming every morning in the ocean, and was one of the happiest people I’d ever met.

Don’t put music on a special stage, keep it part of daily life.   Don’t be worried if you are good at your photo 4instrument or not, just keep playing it and take it with you whenever you go to the beach.  Have regular jam sessions at the kitchen table.  If you don’t have an instrument, be like the kids in Candeal, Salvador, and start a band with water jugs and oil drums, then practice every day for 4 hours in the middle of the playground.

Be laid back enough to welcome the unexpected, even when you are in the middle of something you prepared very carefully.   In Salvador, I went to a concert of Carlinhos Brown, who is pretty much like the Stevie Wonder of Brazil – a musical genius whose songs are beloved by just about everyone.  During his concert, he welcomed all sorts of unexpected events – a woman in the audience who wanted to sing her own song onstage with his band, a 5 year old child whose parents lifted him onto the stage, the impromptu confessionals of love from his fans in the front row.  For each of these, he quieted the band and rolled with the flow.  It was amazing.

Free your skin (when the weather’s warm!).  In Brazil I got the best tan of my adult life.  I feel like my tan is a metaphor – a way of living in my body, of being outdoors everyday, of being close to nature in my daily experience of the sun, the waves, the sand– of the freedom and lightness of wearing little clothing and of living in communities with little formalities and where all bodies were welcome.  It’s hard to keep up in the land of 4 seasons, but relish it when you can.

When you meet people for the first time, remember their names, and say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you __(fill in name here)_____.”   Now that I am not in Brazil anymore, I miss this way of greeting.


The list could go on, but I’ll cut it off here.  While I continue to miss Brazil, I will edit my videos from Rio and Bahia.  So keep an eye on the blog to catch their release!

Finally some cool surfing pics of me!

If I was a little better at surfing I would have gotten tubed.  I'll probably have to surf another 3 years before I figure out how to make that happen

If I was a little better at surfing I would have gotten tubed. I’ll probably have to surf another 3 years before I figure out how to make that happen

I have been travelling through Brazil for nearly 6 months, surfing A LOT.  But somehow, I have very few good images of me surfing.  Whenever I am lucky enough to have a friend nearby who is kind enough to film me, the waves have been small or badly formed.  I have been spending the last precious moments of my trip on the coast of Bahia, surfing my heart out in this warm tropical water, and I finally got some cool images of me catching some nice waves, from my awesome new friend, Itamar, the surf photographer of Itacare.  Check it out!DSCF7861

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Best last day in Rocinha ever!

With Andrea Lopes, surf champion and coach extraordinaire!

With Andrea Lopes, surf champion and coach extraordinaire!

My last day in Rocinha was my best yet.  To start out the day with a bang, I had a  surf lesson with the former world tour surfer and Brazilian women’s champion, Andrea Lopes.  You can imagine how excited I was for this!

To make it even better, one of the older girls from the surf school Bia had asked to come with me to meet Andrea and surf with her.  I was really excited that not just me, but also Bia too, was going to meet a great role model.

Andrea was super cool and fun and friendly, and I learned so much from her in one lesson that I wish I could have stayed and had 5 more.  She filmed me a lot, and also surfed with me for a little while.  She showed me just a couple times how to get into a better position for waves coming up, and somehow, whatever she did really clicked, and I felt like I finally understood a positioning concept that I had been trying to get for a long time.   She pushed me hard and I was exhausted, and I thought our lesson was done when she called me out of the water to do a summary of the things I needed to work on, and then she said, ok 20 more minutes of

With Bia, before the lesson

With Bia, before the lesson

going hard.  And I though, oh gosh, this is going to be tough.  And then she said, you shouldn’t give 100 %, and I thought, oh phew, that’s good, I am really tired.  And then she said, you should give 110%.  Ha!!  So I sucked it up, and went out, and surfed real hard for 20 minutes, and totally put my new positioning skills to work and caught a couple waves just perfect and a bunchmore less perfectly.   Yay!!

After my surf lesson, I had a party on the beach with the kids from the surf school.  We skimboarded and surfed and played in the white water and polished off many bags of candy and cookies. The surf was too big for the younger kids to surf, but I went in with Bocão.  The waves looked exactly like they did on the Gabriel Medina day, and in an awesome marker of my progress, I did not feel afraid at all, and got myself into perfect position to catch 3 really nice

With the Rocinha surf school crew at the beach

With the Rocinha surf school crew at the beach

big rights.  On the last one, which was the biggest and longest, the peanut gallery of local surf guys standing at the sea wall drinking beers cheered for me.    I thought that Andrea Lopes would be proud.

That night was music class at the surf school, and Delão helped the kids write their own rap verses.  The kids at the school really like this one hook of one of my surfing raps, which starts “Put your hands up.”  For the past few weeks, when I see the kids on the streets in Rocinha or walking to the beach, they will start rapping “Put your hands up!”  The only problem is that since the rest of the hook is in English, they have a hard time saying it.  So tonight, Delão helped the kids write their own verses in Portuguese about their surfing life in Rocinha and we recorded it as a group. So fun!  I rewrote my own verses to be about Rocinha, and I can’t wait to put it all together for

With Danielo, a very special little friend who gave me these flowers while we were walking back from the beach

With Danielo, a very special little friend who gave me these flowers while we were walking back from the beach

a music video!

After music class was my last samba rehearsal with the Rocinha Samba School.  My friends came down to the beach and danced with me, and afterwards we had drinks and slacklined by my favorite beach kiosk in front of the surfing break.

Thank you Rocinha for an amazing stay.  It hurts to leave, but this neighborhood will always hold a little piece of my heart, and I know I will come back here someday. Thanks especially to Bocão and the Rocinha Surf School for making me feel so welcome.

Mountain climbing in Rio and making new friends

At the top of Pedra Bonita with Pedra da Gávia in the background

At the top of Pedra Bonita with Pedra da Gávia in the background

The other day there was literally not a wave in the ocean.  So I got a lot of work done on writing and video editing, and decided to spend the afternoon exploring some of Rio’s land-based wonders.  I think one of the reasons I love Rio so much is the strong presence of nature amidst the buzz of the city.  The city is sprawled out around towering rock formations covered in jungles.  I decided to hike up Pedra da Gávea a huge monolith that stands on the western side of our local beach, São Conrado.

I had only a sketchy idea of where the trailhead was, and I was getting a very late start, with only about 3 hours before sunset.  Perhaps not the best set up, but I was feeling optimistic.  I got off the bus around where I thought the trailhead might be and started asking people on the street if they could point me

Wallace at the edge of the launching pad for the hang gliders who jump off Pedra Bonita and fly down to São Conrado beach.  AMAZING!

Wallace at the edge of the launching pad for the hang gliders who jump off Pedra Bonita and fly down to São Conrado beach. AMAZING!

in the right direction.  Apparently the hike was not as popular as I had assumed, since the first 5 people had no idea where I should go.  Then I finally happened upon a guy coming home from work who was able to give me very detailed directions to the trailhead, but, he warned me, the trail was a bit tricky to follow and had a lot of confusing turnoffs.   He suggested another hike, up the neighboring, and almost equally tall, Pedra Bonita.  The trail was much more straightforward.  But, he said, it’s going to be dark very soon, did I really want to do it.   I said, I am prepared to run and I flexed my muscles to show him that I was strong and ready!  He laughed and said, OK.

I had to take another van to the trailhead, but he said it was the same van he took to get home so he could tell me where to get off.  Perfect!  We got on the next van, and had a nice chat.  Turned out, my friendly direction giver Wallace was also really into hiking and mountaineering and mountain biking and just about every other sport so we spent the ride sharing outdoor sports stories!  By the time we reached the trailhead, Wallace decided that he would do the hike with me – which was awesome, since I was new to the

The view from the top, that's Rocinha in the crook of the mountains on the left, and that's São Conrado beach on the right.

The view from the top, that’s Rocinha in the crook of the mountains on the left, and that’s São Conrado beach on the right.

area and its always nice to have company and Wallace was really cool.  I was a little nervous because in the course of our conversation I had discovered that Wallace was one of those uber fit people who does 10 mile super vertical hikes in about 2 hours.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to keep up, but he took it easy on me, and while I was huffing and puffing, we managed to maintain conversation (in Portuguese!) the whole way up while still making good time, and got amazing views of all of Rio, with all of Rocinha and Sao Conrado below us, and the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in the distance.

We made it back down to the bus stop just as the sun set.  Another perfect Rio adventure and how cool to be able to share it with a new friend and kindred spirit.

My new digs in Rio: Rocinha!!!

The view across Rocinha, walking down from my house.

The view across Rocinha, walking down from my house.

I recently moved my accommodations from my friend Andrew’s floor to Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro, nestled on the steep mountain sides around the great rain forest-covered monolith, Dos Irmãos. I came here because I had contacts with the Rocinha Surf School, which doubles as a mini community center for local kids.  Since the moment I arrived, I have LOVED IT.  It is one of the most vibrant and exciting places I have ever lived.  I don’t remember feeling this way about a neighborhood since living in Fort Green, Brooklyn.  Every time I step out of the door, I am surrounded by life- music, card games, business transactions, budding romances, arguments.  Because Brazilian people tend to be really friendly, I have many serendipitous conversations each day.

The whole neighborhood winds its way on twisting roads, and staircases, up a very steep mountain.  There ar

Walking down the mountain with my board

Walking down the mountain with my board

e very few official streets, just endless labyrinths of sidelanes, and walking paths.  You can’t feel hemmed in or too claustrophobic though, because every 20 meters or so, you are afforded a sweeping view of the valley and the majestic Dos Irmãos mountain.

The houses are so close that all our lives seem communally joined.  My bedroom window is about 6 feet away from my neighbor’s living room window, and their 9 year old son often leans out and chats with me from across the lane.  Another nextdoor neighbor plays samba music at extraordinary volumes at just about all hours of the day, and sings along in a beautiful husky voice.  At around

The Rocinha Surf School

The Rocinha Surf School

2:30 am on many nights, I am privy to a loud love conversation/argument conducted by an older man who comes and shouts at the window of his ex-girlfriend, who appears to be spurning him.   Ancient old rainforest remnant trees stand in the middle of impossibly small lanes, and every evening the sky fills with kites, flown by just about every little kid from every rooftop, corner, and balcony window.

One of my favorite people in Rocinha is Bocão, who founded the Rocinha Surf School.  He is the ultimate soul surfer, who has translated all the kindness, openness, patience, dedication, and high-spiritedness of his surfing soul into maintaining a beautiful community space for the neighborhood kids for the last 24 years.   He’s fixed up dozens of old beat up surf boards that people have donated, and basically keeps a free surfboard locker for all the kids of Rocinha who want to come by.  He also

At São Conrado beach

At São Conrado beach

organizes English classes, music classes, and other enrichment activities for the kids nearly every evening of the week and has regular surf lessons during the school year.

My favorite thing to do in Rocinha is head down to the beach with a gaggle of kids from the surf school.  The beach is only a 10 minute walk down the street, and on sunny days IT IS JUMPING!!  Other beaches in Rio are dominated by beautifully adorned and reclining women of leisure, or whole family’s sipping fresh coconut and playing beach tennis, or perfectly tanned volleyball teams.  Rocinha’s beach, São Conrado, is ruled entirely by kids.  They are everywhere – from 5 year olds to 19 year olds – boogie boarding, building sand castles, flinging themselves around in the breakers, body surfing, falling off long

Heading back from the beach, with Rocinha in the background

Heading back from the beach, with Rocinha in the background

boards, shredding on short boards.  The teenagers make out under beach umbrellas while the little kids bury each other in the sand.  I am impressed by how self-sufficient they are, in often very rough water, with little to no adult super vision.

I have been catching small waves in really crowded waters,  occasionally colliding with little kids flying out of nowhere on boogie boards.  My first day at the surf school, I rapped for the kids while one of them played a beat on a drum that was just lying around.  Afterwards, they took turns making their own verses about surfing at São Conrado, with two girls leading the charge.  Life in Rocinha is definitely off to a good start!