Take A Ride On The Wild Side
May 21, 2020
Kanoa Greene is a fitness junkie, surfer, and soon-to-be snowboarder who is turning her passion for adventure into Plus-Size Retreats for women who are wild at heart. We sat down with her to find out how she’s creating safe spaces for women of size.
Tell us about you—what is your calling?
My calling is absolutely to encourage women to believe that they can do anything, just as I found out about myself when starting my fitness journey. For me, I always felt like I was an adventurous person inside, but I was always the fat kid at school and in my family. I always held myself back because you think “Am I too heavy?” or “Am I going to fit in things?” But I was very spontaneous and wild heart. At 315 pounds I discovered this strength in my body that allowed me to do the things that I wanted to do. I want to encourage other women to find strength in their bodies and know that we can do anything. This is what propels me and gives me the courage to step outside of my comfort zone and inspire girls and women that they can live their wildest dreams.
What was the impetus behind starting Plus-Size Surf Retreats?
It was completely by mistake. What had happened is I had this incredible opportunity to model for the launch of an exclusive surfwear line from 124 West, a brand making more inclusive sizes before it became a thing. I hadn’t surfed, and I had shared my story of wanting to surf and building my fitness to be able to do it. They brought me on board to be a model and sent me to Costa Rica where I took surf lessons. I shared that experience, and women of different shapes and sizes saw me surfing. I started getting a lot of questions about where they could surf too. I looked online for inclusive retreats and couldn’t find anything. I texted a friend and asked her if she thought I could start my own, she said yes, and so the next day I did it! On June 4, 2020, we will hold our first surf camp for all sizes. It’s open to all sizes but as a plus-size person and someone who doesn’t look like your average surfer, I know we need a space that will support women who have questions like “Am I going to be too heavy for the board?” or “Will the instructor be able to help me navigate my body?” We have you covered—the board, the instructor, the clothing, everything.
Why do you think surfing has it been so slow to evolve in the areas of equal pay and representation?
We all know that female surfers get paid less and are featured less in the media. Sometimes you get caught in the “it’s always been done that way” and that adversity to change can be an issue. They’ve been sold in this cycle of the men’s club, and while the shift has been slow, the conversations are happening and change is starting to snowball.
What sort of sustained action is needed in order to change the landscape of surfing?
It’s exactly what you’re doing and what we’re doing—having the conversations and exposing it to the larger world. I took the leap of faith after not having seen another body out there that looked like me. It’s us constantly talking about it and sharing the stories and being honest and open about it. Then we can encourage and inspire others to do what they’ve been thinking about doing but have never seen someone like themselves do it. They get a little bit of permission. Being a fat girl isn’t always sunshine and unicorns. If we’re brave enough to be vulnerable, to talk about it, and to share it, there is an unlimited amount of opportunity to change the industry.
What has surprised you the most since sharing your story on Instagram and starting Plus-Size Retreats?
What’s been surprising is the overwhelming amount of support from the surf community as a whole. For so many years there wasn’t any representation and they weren’t making clothes for me and you don’t know what to expect when you take that first leap into the unknown. I can honestly say there has not been one negative thing spoken, only absolutely support with people standing behind me and taking the responsibility to help push the needle. They are taking the steps with me to make change happen. Two many women have been wanting to do this for so long and they weren't allowed to, and now they see people who have their back. It’s been the most amazing thing about this journey.
What does the future hold for you and how can people support you in making your vision a reality?
Never in a billion years did I imagine that I would be at a place where I’m launching a surf retreat. That seems out of body. But that’s allowed me to dream even bigger. I have an idea of expanding that into other outdoor adventures—maybe snowboarding or skiing or scuba diving—so that all of these other opportunities for women to adventure in a safe space exist. People can support me by learning more about my trips at @PlusSizeRetreats and checking out my fitness app @KanoaFitness that comes out this spring. There aren’t a lot of fitness apps for women of size that show you that you can be strong and athletic in a body that doesn’t have a six-pack. I’m changing that.