Discover the inspiring story of a group of women making waves across the Iranian surf scene.
Chabahar County occupies the easternmost stretch of Iran’s coastline, reaching toward the border with Pakistan. In the last 10 years, it’s become the unlikely home of Iran’s first surfing outpost, in the small village of Ramin, where a sandy beach hosts consistent waves throughout the summer.
The area’s potential was discovered by Irish surfer Easkey Britton, who became the first woman ever to ride the country’s waves in 2010. Three years later she returned, this time inviting two Iranian sports women to accompany her to the coast: Shahla Yasini, a diver and lifeguard, and Mona Seraji, the country’s first female snowboard instructor. As Britton taught them to pop up on the beach in Ramin, kids rushed down from the village to have a go-so she taught them too. When Britton left, Yasini and Seraji established a surf club and continued to hold regular sessions.
Although enthusiastic, the locals faced more challenges than beginners from elsewhere-in particular the women, who, according to Yasini, struggled to access practical surfwear that compiled with the legal requirement for them to be completely covered.
After watching a documentary on Britton’s 2013 excursion, Italian photographer, Giulia Frigieri, decided to create her own project, documenting the Ramin surf scene. Over the course of multiple visits, she struck up a friendship with Yasini, each time finding the surf scene in a new stage of development. By 2019, Ramin was a popular spot, which brought with it clear improvements for the local people, but also the establishment of a government controlled surf association. During Frigieri’s final trip to the area, she was told she could no longer take pictures of men and women in the waves together. While her photographs radiate the joy of a fledgling surf scene, it’s impossible to disconnect them from the wider political context.
Women’s rights in Iran are severely limited, a fact that frequently prevents them from engaging in sports. Against such a backdrop, it might seem strange that the government has allowed, and even encouraged, surfing to take place at all. Intriguingly, Yasini believes that the official support may stem from the same thing that caught the eye of media outlets that ran images of her under headlines such as, “The Hijabi Surfers Making Waves in Iran.”
'The idea of a documentary showing Iranian women surfing with hijab was attractive to the authorities,’ Yasini told journalist Haleh Anvari. Why? Because it seemed to demonstrate that the legal requirement for women to be covered was not a limitation. As such, the photographs serve as a pertinent reminder of how surfing can be a medium for greater individual freedom-but also harnessed as a promotional tool by those looking to achieve altogether different aims.
Discover the devotional practice of wave riding through an atlas of iconic surf locations from around the world, in The Surf Atlas.
This story was originally featured in The Surf Atlas.