Riding the Wave of Empowerment: Non-Profit Champions Body Positivity in Girls and Women Through Board Sports

Riding the Wave of Empowerment: Non-Profit Champions Body Positivity in Girls and Women Through Board Sports

By: Miles Anderson

Between a small town of Wolfville in the Annapolis Valley, and Halifax Nova Scotia, the Atlantic Coastline delivers no end of opportunities for water people, but accessibility poses an issue. In 2017, the founder of Girls on Boards Mia Lockhart, set out to help empower girls and women to love their bodies and have vulnerable conversations through board sports. Centred around stand-up paddle-boarding in its birth year, Girls on Boards has branched out to provide programs within skateboarding, surfing, and snowboarding for youth ages 8-18.

Co-Director of Girls on Boards Rosalind Beddoe joined the team in 2019 and began to take the direction of the registered non-profit in different strides. “We started to get a lot of interest from women across the province and internationally, aligning with what we were doing and providing accessible board sport opportunities with a focus on body confidence,” said Beddoe.

Sustaining Youth Engagement

According to the Rally Report, a study done by Canadian Women in Sport in 2020: “43% of adolescent girls said the quality of the sport experience was a barrier”. The Girls on Boards team's driving mission is to “provide physically and financially accessible board sport opportunities to get women, girls and youth on the water or in the skatepark that may be inaccessible to them,” said Ros.

Although the stoke within the Nova Scotia surf and now expanding stand-up paddle-boarding community is progressing, accessibility for youth creates a barrier. If you want your own gear, entering the world of board sports is a financial hurdle. There is a current need for additional non-profit organizations that are dedicated to empowering youth to discover their passions without facing obstacles.

Girls on Boards sought out existing infrastructure and organizations providing similar recreation opportunities to youth within the city of Halifax that they could expand on. “There is always a need for financially accessible recreation opportunities which we fit into,” Beddoe says. “We’ve been able to work with local organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA to provide skateboarding clinics and paddle programs to fill programming voids”.

Being able to provide free programs for youth has been made possible through the nearly 2000 participants that have taken part in Girls on Boards “Pay-it-Forward” SUP tours and lessons held throughout the summer.

Empowering Foundations

Essential to the success of youth programs is those who support them.

“That feeling they get when they stand up and have success on a board, they will never forget it,” Girls on Boards founder Mia Lockhart says. “They can always go back to it in their memories and that is a start of embodying their power”.

Certified Girls on Boards Leaders is a program offered by the organization to provide women in various communities the opportunity to go through leadership courses to run board sports start-ups in their local community.

Aligning programming with the mission “Love your Body, Trust your Core, Feel your Power,” Ros says the organization is expanding outside of Nova Scotia with women looking to start their own group of boarders who share these same values. Some of the areas of operation Girls on Boards Leaders are making strides in include Napanee Ontario, Miramichi New Brunswick, and Sutherland Scotland.

Programming offered throughout the 2024 summer season from Girls on Boards is stand up paddle-board tours in Halifax and Cape Breton, as well as private skateboard lessons and a Learn-to Surf Weekend which gives youth 4 free lessons including full-day rentals which are available in partnership with East Coast Surf School and supported by Canadian Tire Jumpstart.


Photo credits in order of appearance:

Rosalind Beddoe

Mia Lockhart

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