Feature

Flocking like sea-gals

The air is cold and crisp on a Friday morning at Mullaloo beach. The sun is just arriving, parting through the damp clouds. A soft silence spans across the beachfront. 

Suddenly, out of the blue, a flock of women come running through the sand. The wind blows through their hair as they splash into the deep blue, waves crashing against their skin, filling up shore with laughter and heart-felt adrenaline. What was an empty beach, has been absorbed by a collection of beautiful women, all shapes and sizes.

Flocking like Sea-gals.

Women racing into the ocean at 6AM, Mullaloo Beach. Photo: Harriet Flinn.

Four months ago, 23-year-old Tara Jeisman felt lost. After recently graduating from university, she was nearing a burn-out from her two part-time jobs. 

Tara Jeisman at Mullaloo Beach. Photo: Harriet Flinn.

During one late February evening, however, Jeisman came across an Instagram post by her friend, who had visited the beach during sunrise. 

And it got her thinking.

“I thought if I could get up early and do something like that for myself, I would feel a lot better, she says.

The next week, Jeisman set her alarm for 5:30am, and with some sleepy perseverance, got herself to the beach – and decided to document it all on TikTok.

That morning, she posted it to the platform, and within a few days the video was a viral sensation. 

However, there seemed to be a recurring response to her video. Hundreds of women commented on her post, stating a similar desire to follow in Jeisman’s footsteps.

“I remember soon after, one girl commented “why don’t we just all go together?” And it was like a lightbulb moment,” she says.

The first group meet was on the February 18, and five girls turned up. At the end of the swim, one of the girls asked ‘so when are we doing this next?’

Since that first meet, Jeisman has organised many sunrise swims per week, inviting LGBTQI+ and non-binary folk to meet new people and feel comfortable doing so. 

And within two months, the average number of women turning up went from five to 100.

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`As the morning sun begins to peak through the clouds, every girl is now in the water. Some are completely emerged, others still struggle to keep their shoulders under. But underneath the shuddering smiles and giggles, there is an undeniable sense of accomplishment.

Savanna Kileff at Mullaloo Beach. Photo: Harriet Flinn

They don’t actually have to say it, but it’s clear they are proud of one another. 

“It’s funny what barriers limit people”

This was 23-year-old Cassie’s first time coming to a Sea-gals meet. She says that she never could’ve imagined an environment like this was possible. 

“I have never had the courage to go to the beach by myself, I was too nervous … especially to be photographed.

“But the girls made me feel so welcomed and included, even when I didn’t feel so confident in myself,” Cassie says. 

“This little community of girls are so amazing, they really helped me come out of my shell,” says 20-year old Savanna Kileff.

Body positivity is a big part of Sea-gals, so much so they state it before every swim – almost like a mantra.

Zoe Fackerell at Leighton Beach. Photo: Sarah Zonneveld.

Zoe Fackerell, 24, has been helping out with the Sea-gals meet-ups for a couple of weeks, and says whether you’re a woman, part of the LGBTQI+ community or non-binary, the group aims to create a space where people can feel comfortable in their skin. 

“I think after telling people to feel confident and fearless…it kind of sunk back into myself,” she says.

“I have taken a long look at myself, and realised that, wow, I really don’t look that bad!

“I was being so tough on myself, and it was so tiring.” 

UWA directer of higher degrees and body image advocate Dr Marilyn Bromberg says initiatives that create spaces for women to not just feel comfortable in their own skin – but also be introduced to other diverse bodies – can be extremely empowering.

“A lot of women are very hard on themselves,” Dr Bromberg says.

“They feel like, in order to be beautiful, they have to look certain way, and poor body image can lead to eating disorders, which becomes very dangerous.

“When women see images of women with diverse bodies, it’s proven to be really positive on body image.

“The idea of beauty is too narrow, and its important to knock these standards down, and start rebuilding them.”

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A few women have left the ocean by now, sitting on the bank and talking to one another, lounging around in their swimsuits, soaking up the morning sun.

Founder of GRNSTR Eliza Greene at Leighton Beach. Photo: Harriet Flinn.

One of these women is 24-year old Eliza Greene.

Greene is the founder of GRNSTR swimwear and an avid advocate for body positivity. 

For many years, Greene was a competitive surfer, travelling the world to compete in international titles. That was until COVID put a significant halt on her career.

But during her long-standing surfing profession, there was one area of the water-sport world which bothered her endlessly.

“I always struggled to find a swimsuit, to fit my boob size, and I started to think – if i’m not able to fit into this sizing industry – how are women on the voluptuous size finding it?” Greene says. 

So Greene decided to plunge into the deep end, and take on her dream of creating an inclusive swimwear brand.

It took just over one year, but Greene has now created a dedicated brand, that provides women the opportunity to feel comfortable and included within the swimwear world.

Women in Hawaii wearing GRNSTR’s wetsuits. Photo: Supplied.

“The ocean doesn’t discriminate.”

“I’ve had women in Hawaii message me and say “i’m over 30 and I’ve never been able to wear a wetsuit before,” and it makes me so happy.

“It’s so important for girls to have specific times and places to meet, as you just never know how many girls needed a community like SeaGals.”

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It’s around 7am, and by now the sun has fully emerged. Women are gradually parting from the ocean, smiling to themselves. 

“I’m so happy I came today, I didn’t realise how much this would help my mental state,” Bree says. 

On making new friends, many of the women said SeaGals was a great opportunity to build friendships.

“This is actually my third time coming down for morning swims with sea-gals, and I never expected to meet so many people, and to actually make friends too,” Vanessa says.

“Everyone here is so welcoming, its just really nice to have a space like this,” Caitlin says.

“After just moving from Melbourne three weeks ago, this has been such a great way to meet new people,” Tina says.

Maddie adds: “This was my first time coming to SeaGals, and it was honestly so wonderful seeing a community of so many empowering women. There’s no judgement, everyone is safe…it’s just really nice.”

As the morning wraps up, everyone huddles over for one last photo.

“I’ve learnt so much during these two months than I ever though was possible, not just about myself but about women too, Jeisman says.

“I think a lot of women tend to – and it doesn’t happen on purpose – feel like they have to present in a certain way in order to feel beautiful…

“But they don’t realise that they already have this beauty… just the way they are.”

A girl diving into the deep blue at Mullaloo beach. Photo: Harriet Flinn.

Categories: Feature, General, Marine life, Sexuality, Slider

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