Surfer Easkey Britton and film-maker Marion Poizeau
‘We bonded because we wouldn’t give up’
Easkey Britton (left) and Marion Poizeau
Easkey Britton is five-times Irish surf champion, and an activist and environmental scientist. She was the first woman to surf in Iran, the subject of a short film by Marion Poizeau . She is an Oxfam Hero, part of a campaign to empower women . She and Poizeau will launch non-profit Waves of Freedom today, International Women’s Day. She was born and lives in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal
I met Marion in Tehran airport. I was going on a surfing trip organised by a mutual contact of ours – I’ve always been hungry to explore the unknown, and Baluchistan, where we were going, was certainly off the beaten track, especially in terms of surfing. Other people who’d come on board fell by the wayside and the person organising the trip missed his flight. So Marion and I were stranded in Tehran, two strangers. I had my surfboard and my customised surfing hijab; Marion had her camera.
We just immediately bonded because we were so willing not to give up. We thought, we’re here now, we’ve got to carry on, embrace the unknown. We were headed for Chabahar, a seaport about a two-hour flight from Tehran in a far-flung corner of Iran on the Indian ocean.
Marion has a great sense of enthusiasm, she’s always smiling, I felt like, whatever happened, we’d find a way through it. She has a real sense of grace and grit, a determination not to be pushed aside. Being told you can’t do something would fire both of us up even more.
So we went on an incredible journey after meeting and it’s still ongoing.
We went not knowing what to expect, what the reaction might be to a western woman surfing. What we found were plenty of warm-hearted, welcoming people, excitement and a buzz about what we were doing.
We were going to a region that’s mostly very rural, very traditional. There were no surfers there at all when we went in 2010.
The first trip made an impact as a result of a short film Marion made and put up online. That caught the attention of women and girls in Iran who were really excited to try surfing. Surfing is so synonymous with freedom, self-expression, a sense of empowerment – that’s what we wanted to explore. We were motivated to go back last summer, particularly to connect with Iranian sportswomen, following an invite from women in Iran.
Marion has made a full-length documentary about the second trip, and we’ve started an initiative, Waves of Freedom. We’ve brought over all the equipment and supplies and now there’s a fledgling grassroots surfing movement in Iran. We hope it will grow towards empowering the most vulnerable people in the world, who are mostly girls and women. Marion and I are in contact all the time. When we get together, there is a lot of sparking of ideas. When one of us is down, the other lifts us up.
Marion Poizeau is a French film maker who has just made ‘Waves of Freedom’, about introducing surfing to southern Iran with Easkey Britton. Her short film, ‘Surfing in Iran’, was made after the pair first visited Iran . She lives in Hossegor, France, a major surfing centre
When Easkey and I met in Tehran in 2010, straight away we became friends. It was easy – she is easygoing, open-minded. We decided to keep going to Baluchistan, although our friend had missed his flight. We were there for two weeks at first; I was finding out if it was possible to film in Iran, and it was fine.
Local people came to watch Easkey surfing – it was the first time anyone had surfed in this place. The local reaction was fine as long as we respected the culture. The fact that we did, that we wore hijabs, made the sport – and us –accepted. The hijab is culturally and historically complex, it’s more complex than we want to see in western countries, I understand that after spending time in Iran.
It was a good surprise that so many people watched surfing in Iran. We got a lot of feedback from Iranian people, it was really positive. Most were saying thank you for coming to Iran and for showing another image of the country.
Then Easkey and I went back last summer and made a feature documentary , Waves of Freedom , with an Iranian film crew.
Our skills are complementary. Both of us have the same ideas about the fact that sports can help empower women, that women like Easkey can help give example.
Easkey’s a very smart person, very determined, has a clear idea of what she wants. She has dreams and makes sure they come true.
Easkey and I both have the privilege of growing up in families where we could express ourselves, and it’s a good thing to help other women to be able to do that too.
We have a lot in common and the fact that we created the story together makes us close; we lived an experience that was quite unusual. Baluchistan is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world, there are no tourists there. Then you arrive and see all these people, and how welcoming they are . I lived that with Easkey, it was very intense. Being in Iran together brought us into a good friendship, for sure.
I stayed for two months in Iran this time, editing with Bahman Kiarostami, a well-known Iranian film director and editor. It’s been great for me as a film maker to work with people like him. I’m looking for a TV company to show it – distribution is the hardest part.
We had a lot of emails from Iranian women asking: “Are you coming back?” So Easkey and I plan to return . We introduced surfing as a sport, it’s been accepted, now we can start working on development.
Oxfam’s Heroes encourag es people to celebrate their female heroes, with proceeds to Oxfam’s work with women worldwide.