Local women surfers are breaking barriers in a ‘male-dominant’ industry


Xamara Aleman/The Mesa Press

Seven local women surfers spoke on their experiences both working and competing in a male-dominant industry.

Xamara Aleman, News Editor

A panel of local women surfers detailing their journey about breaking barriers and misogyny in a male-dominant sport was hosted by San Diego College of Continuing Education West City Campus on March 23.

The event, “Under the Radar: Lifting Each Other So That We All Rise,” was part of Continuing Education’s Women’s History Month celebration and followed a March 16 panel discussion, Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.

Among the panelists was former professional women’s surfer, Lisa Carulli Ed.D., who also works with the college’s Acquired Brain Injury Program, and is a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) coordinator. She spoke on the challenges she faced, originally being from a small town in Florida but moving to Ocean Beach to become a competitive women’s surfer. 

“Back in the day, they’d say you need to surf more like a girl and I didn’t understand what that meant because I only knew how I couldn’t surf,” said Dr. Carulli 

Panelist Mikala Kramer is a production manager for Sharp Eye Surfboards, where she runs the CNC machine and paints boards for multiple different surf companies. She also currently cuts boards for multiple World Surf League (WSL) leaders. Kramer spoke about the hurdles people are facing in production and manufacturing in the industry. 

“I started working at a very large corporation, Sharp Eye Surfboards, it is one of the largest manufacturers in the United States and we are one of the top in the world. They had never had a woman running the CNC machine before,” said Kramer. “I would hit my elbow and they would say that’s why girls don’t build surfboards, maybe your body just can’t handle working on the machine. You can’t dig a ditch. Why would you run this machine? I’m like, well, nobody really wants to dig ditches. It has nothing to do with me being a woman,” she adds. 

Aside from the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominant sport like surfing, the panelists gave advice for people wanting to learn how to surf. Panelist Angie Hall arrived late to the game as a surfer at the age of 42 years old. Hall walked away from her 16-year corporate career in Cardiology and now has been surfing in Ocean Beach for three years. She gives readings as a Vedic Astrologer, guides online Himalayan Meditation and leads international yoga/surf retreats. 

“I lost a bet and it was a bet that if the sun came out on July 28, 2020, I would go out and surf in the cold waters in Northern California,” Hall said. “So that day changed my life, the ocean opened her arms to me there was a whale and a calf and just this beautiful marine life that was out there and the next day I bought a surfboard and something awakened in me and I have been surfing every day since and so for anyone out there who just is feeling the desire in your heart or is just drawn to it, it is if you want to.”

Panelists Phoenix Coverley, a local artist, professor, and lawyer started surfing in her late 20s during the angry 80s surf culture, during that time women were expected to relax on the beach and watch their surfer boyfriend. Her first surfing experience was in 1986 at Sunset Cliffs, in San Diego, on a friend’s sacred Skip Frye board.  

Coverley was a surf instructor for Surf Diva Surf School and shared her advice for beginner surfers. 

“There are three things I would tell a new surfer, number one swim in the pool for a month beforehand because what she was talking about was paddling, surfing is 97% paddling. It is not jumping up and standing on a wave and come walking on water,” said Coverley. 

She then spoke about how it feels to be out on the water, “Even if you have a really crappy time in the water and don’t catch any waves. You walk out of there going like this is a great day, I feel wonderful. Just the salt being in the saltwater makes your body feel amazing.”

Coverley’s final piece of encouragement is to join a surf club! Pacific Beach Surf Club is always looking for new members. You’ll get a ton of encouragement, and being in contests gives beginners the opportunity to learn so much and meet a giant community of people that are mostly supportive.