To Thembi Hanify, surfing is not just a sport but a way of life. Having grown up intimidated by the hypermasculine surf scene in Australia, Thembi decided to finally take up the sport at the age of 25 in the United States. With her own personal experiences in tow, she and Mariah Ernst decided to start EMOCEAN, a surf publication focused solely on the perspectives of those who’ve rarely been included in mainstream surf culture such as women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
After sponsoring the New York and Los Angeles release parties of EMOCEAN Issue #3, we took the opportunity to ask her some questions about herself and EMOCEAN.
I started surfing properly when I was 25 and living in Rockaway Beach, NY. I grew up in Australia but never fully picked it up then, as there were very few female surfers, and the vibe in the water was pretty macho and intimidating.
Now surfing plays a huge role in my life. It affects all the biggest decisions in my life like where I live, what work I take on, how I structure my days, and to an extent who I keep company with. The more I surf, the more I understand it as a practice, just like yoga or meditation.
It's taught me a lot of profound life lessons, many of which crept up on me unexpectedly. Being committed to surfing also helps me commit to taking better care of myself, others, and this Earth.
It definitely takes a lot of effort to be completely self-motivated and keep on top of self-imposed deadlines, business development, and things like that.
Designing Emocean has been a really interesting project of self-expression for me, as it's easy to get caught up in trendy aesthetics or what the client likes in the day-to-day 9-5 job grind. It's been cool so far to approach it a bit more intuitively and less objectively. It's a platform to try new ideas!
Working with Mariah [Ernst], our editor-in-chief, has been a dream because she is a wealth of surf history, especially the lesser known parts of history that weren't well documented i.e. women's surf history, BIPOC surf history, LGBTQ+ surf history.
We want to be able to give these past stories the eyes that they deserve, and in turn also document the incredible, thriving, grassroots cultural currents of surfing that are rising up today. The greatest change in the surf world is 100% coming from community-driven leaders and organizations that are creating the inclusive and welcoming realities that we all need to see to evolve.
Photos taken by Wyn Herrick
I don't even know their names, but the creative team behind this 90s Australian magazine called 'Chick'. It was solely devoted to girls living the surf/snow/skate/adventure lifestyle, and I was completely obsessed with it.
Reading that made me become a skater chick for a hot second, but skateboarding never really stuck. I feel like my life has come full circle now looking back at that!
Emocean is a twice-yearly, printed, everyperson surf magazine that champions diverse perspectives, radical creativity, relatability, empowerment, and especially the narratives of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ surfers.
I was inspired to create Emocean after repeatedly picking up existing printed surf media and barely finding women in the pages, let alone women actually riding waves.