"New Amsterdam Surf Association was born out of a need for exposing a hidden reality. Most surf brands are portraying surfing as a blue water, perfect waves, bikini babes on the tropic beach lifestyle”. Something that we in Amsterdam experience differently.
Part of that constructed image, which is mostly portrayed through marketing and advertisements, is the lack of inclusivity in surf.
The mainstream image does not reflect the reality. We of New Amsterdam want to create visibility for all surfers.
That’s why we are presenting to you our new ongoing concept ‘’Reflection of Amsterdam’’, where we will show the real reflection of our society all year around.
For this episode we had the honour to capture and chat with five inspiring women telling us their experience within surfing. We linked up with surfers and creatives Nina Moerdijk and Patrick Rietvelt to lead and photograph the first editions. Third up is: Sacha
Sacha is a positive openminded daring girl who finds joy and peace in all aspects of surfing. Being in nature, connecting with all kinds of people and of course the adrenaline keeps her connected with life and with the people she lost. She swears to catch waves the rest of her life.
- Who are you? (Name, age, etc)
Sacha Verheij, 24 years old, I was a barista at The Shore Scheveningen and right now I am studying a master in Gender & Diversity.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself.
In 1996 me and my twin sister were born to a Dutch father and a Surinamese-Indonesian mother. I always find the story of how my mother's parents met quite absurd. After the World War II, the Netherlands was still against the independence of Indonesia and sent Surinamese people to Indonesia to fight. So my Surinamese grandfather was in Indonesia in name of The Netherlands, but he got along very well with the Indonesian people there. Meaning, he met my Indonesian grandmother, fell in love and impregnated her. Nevertheless, he had to go back to The Netherlands. My grandmother was so in love that she chose to follow him and start a family together in The Netherlands. They had 11 children in total, my mother being the 9th.
- When did you start surfing?
I started surfing when I was 15 years old.
- Where did you start surfing
My first surf lesson was in Zandvoort, but I really started surfing in Scheveningen with lessons from surfles.nl (which is now called The Shore Scheveningen) from Hans in 2012.
- Why did you start surfing?
Well, my father's family is from The Hague and some of my cousins were already surfing. I was jealous that they were able to surf and I was mad that I couldn't because my parents decided to move to Friesland when I was just 1 year old. Already being into snowboarding, I was eager to pick up surfing. We found a way to surf by going to surfles.nl beforehand every time we had a birthday or celebration with our family in The Hague. It was a great combination! One time we even surfed with the whole family after our grandmother's birthday lunch at Zuid.
- Why do you keep surfing
Surfing keeps me sane and grounded. The combination of the stillness of the sea, the being in nature, the connections with other people and the adrenaline of surfing itself gives me joy and peace. It keeps me connected with life, but it also keeps me connected with the people I lost. Sometimes it feels like my dad is with me in the water, I'm glad that right before he passed away he has seen me catch my first wave ever. I'll keep on catching waves for the rest of my life!
- What are your surfing experiences within the Surf world?
It took me some time to find my place within the Surf world. Sometimes it felt a bit intimidating, because I thought you can only enter the line-up when you are really good. Plus, at times I experience men underestimating my surfing skills and overestimating their own. For example, when I obviously am the closest to the peak, some men stay on the shoulder to see and wait whether I'll be able to catch it ... in the mean time they ruin the wave making me unable to surf it. But luckily, most experiences within the Surf world have been good. Especially when you're in the water with a lot of people that you know. I love the feeling of the community and everyone cheering each other on!
- There is a mainstream image of surfers and their lifestyle, an image that we of New Amsterdam experience differently. Where do you stand in this? What are your thoughts about this?
I always try to spread welcoming and positive vibes, letting everyone know that surfing is for everybody. But to be honest, the image of an athletic muscular white man is still omnipresent in the surf scene. I wish we could break through that image and make people realise that if you don’t fit the norm that you can still try out surfing. Especially for people of colour, who are less represented in the surf scene in the Netherlands. As a biracial woman yet white-passing, I want to speak up on this matter but I don’t know where I fit into the conversation. Though I strongly believe that my privilege of looking like a white girl – even though I don’t feel like one – comes with a responsibility to speak up against racism and to call people out when they’re exhibiting unacceptable behaviours. Today the conversation on racism is happening all around the world and I think we should all be involved in fighting racial injustice.
- What would you like to see differently within surfing?
I'd like to see everyone being able to and feel safe to enjoy surfing. It doesn't matter if you're muscular or heavy, young or old, white or non-white, rich or poor, heterosexual or non-heterosexual, able-bodied or have a disability - we are all human and share the same passion: surfing.
That's what I love about surfing in The Netherlands. People go into the turbulent, rough and mushy sea, because of their genuine love for the ocean. Sometimes friends that don't surf thought that I was crazy, for going surfing in the cold water at 6 o' clock in the morning. Well, everyone should experience the healing power of the sea. It's magic!
- Are we missing something? Tell us.
In a very interesting documentary, called "Just Go Fucking Surfing" by filmmaker Juul Hesselberth (Dutch surfer), some girls go against the norm of being sexy. They want to be judged by their surfing performance, sadly they are still being judged by their looks. This takes the focus away from what surfing really is about: enjoying the magic of the sea. Juul’s film is a nuanced critique on the overemphasis on having a slim and great looking body in surfing.