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We Are Like Waves is an intimate look into how surfing changes Sanu’s life, documenting the struggles and breakthroughs of becoming one of the first female Sri Lankan surfers.

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Along the South Coast of Sri Lanka, surfing is everywhere. Yet only foreigners and local men fill the lineups. Surfing is not seen as a sport for girls. This is a result of cultural and societal expectations that place women inside the household, particularly in rural areas. Young girls are expected to follow certain standards: be kind, look nice, and smile. Attend school, study, work. Get married, and start a family. Be a housewife, cook, and clean. Most importantly, stay at home and put family first.


The ocean is simply not seen as a place for women. Therefore, like most girls, Sanu grew up watching her brother surf, but never considered it as an option for herself. When Sanu turned 18, she began working in the kitchen at a surf camp alongside her brother, who worked as a surf instructor.


At the surf camp, Sanu was often invited to try surfing by foreigners, but her fear of the ocean and going against her community’s expectations made her decline the offer again and again. One day, Sanu was asked by her boss and mentor, Sophie, to join her at SeaSisters, a weekly swim and surf program established  for Sri Lankan girls to help inspire and empower  through surfing. Hesitant but curious, Sanu took the risk.


Sanu must decide if she wants to continue a typical life as a housewife, or risk carving her own path as a surfer. This is a story of finding one’s voice in a sea of expectations.


The story was found through a podcast that featured one of the co-founders of Sea Sisters Sri Lanka, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching local women how to swim and surf. They are inspiring young women by building confidence and strength in the water.

After listening to the episode, I learned that in Sri Lanka there is a cultural mindset that surfing is not meant for girls. Fathers are afraid of what might happen to their daughters, worried that they will never marry, so women are taught to stay close to home and they never learn. The stories and social issues shared on the podcast just stuck with me. Telling Sanu’s story as an example of the type of struggles that women surfers feel everywhere. I immediately felt a swell in my chest: this story needs to be told. Film is my form of activism to support and inspire more diversity in the surfing world.

I reached out to Sea Sisters in an Instagram message. They too wanted to create a film to help better continue their efforts to shift local mindsets about female surfers. It was a perfect communion of time, creativity, and passion.

Two months later, the film was in full production on the South Coast of Sri Lanka.


Tackling issues of culture, gender norms, family expectations, empowerment and personal development, this film aims to inspire and empower women from across the world to pursue their own paths; and create a platform for deeper discussions around culture, gender and family expectations in the context of surfing. By bringing together women from different cultures, the film connects women in sharing stories, experiences and resources to overcome the unique but similar barriers we face.


SeaSisters is a local organization that teaches Sri Lankan girls and women how to swim and surf. They create a safe space for girls and women to enjoy the ocean, using sports as a tool for women’s empowerment. SeaSisters is where Sanu began her surfing journey. SeaSisters was founded in 2018 by Amanda Prifti and Martina Burtscher, who are also the co-producers of We Are Like Waves. They wanted to share SeaSisters’ and Sanu’s story in an authentic and collaborative way - that’s why they teamed up with director Jordyn Romero and producer Leah de Leon. The film was initiated in partnership with SeaSisters, with the intent to inspire more diverse girls and women to get into surfing and follow their own path. 

Learn more about their work at

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EP, Director, DP, Editor: Jordyn Romero  

Producer: Leah de Leon  

Co-Producers: Martina Burtscher, Amanda Prifti  

Executive Producer: Bettina Lancaster  

Sanu Sandeepani  
Anju Sandeepani  
Surangi Sandeepani  
Kumara Sandeepani  
Dinith Sandeepani  
Minidhu Sandeepani  
Ameesha Sandeepani  
Rehana Sandeepani  
Sadini Malaha  
Kalpani Nimesha  
Tharushi Sandunika  

Executive Producers for the LA Times: Nani Sahra Walker, Leslie Lindsey  

Associate Producers: Katharine Johnson, James P. Lenfestey, Susan Lenfestey  

Story Consultant: Kalpa Gandhari, Umanga Sarathchandra, Nick Shrunk  

Drone Operator: Amanda Prifti, Ollie Walker  

Additional Cinematography: Giulia Franchi  

Color: Sarah Sebring

Sound Design and Mix: Anna Wozniewicz  

Music by: Alex Mansour  

Music Supervisor: Brittany Douziech

Field Translator: Kalpa Gandhari  

Translations: Umanga Sarathchandra , Janitha Thalagodage  

Original Title and Animation: Michelle Parry  

Original Font: Lauren Stevens  

Tuk Tuk:  Thilina Roshan  

Fiscal Sponsor: From the Heart Productions  
In Partnership with: Sea Sisters Sri Lanka

Special Thanks: 
Jack Bauhs  
Devyn Bisson  
Joann Kohng  
Céline François  
Giulia Franchi  
Scott Hussion  
William Lenfestey  
Elizabeth Romero  
Spencer Santini  
Nick Shrunk  
Shelby Thompson  
Ellie Vargas  
Arnaud Zimmerman  
Elsewhere Surf Camp  
Mahishaa Balraj  
Claudia Ruiz  
Shari Palermo  
Sandy Dimayuga  
Mindy de Leon  
Aaron Perez  
Aina Gustafsson  
Alison Ball  
Alyssa Evans  
Skye Dascher  
Alexandra Gossink  
Amanda Johnston  
Amy Hanson  
Andy Hague  
Ashley H. Davis  
Barrett W. Chapman  
Beatriz de Almeida  
Becky Mendoza  
Jason Baker  
Billy Tipp  
Blake Kendrick  
Bob & Lisa Vigil  
Bradford Rusick  
Brianna Ortega  
Chris de Leon  
Christine Mueller  
Dan Brawley  
Danyelle Carpenter  
Devon Romero  
Dianne Shedden  
Dominik Eme  
Electrum Performance  
Elizabeth Rafael  
Fidu Reidolina  
George Tomay  
Gwen Wiscount  
Halley Albert  
Hannes Hochuli  
Isabelle Robertson  
Jeanene Bettner  
Jessica Schelz  
Jordyn Romero  
Katherine Terrell  
Kayli Nordby  
Laura De Leon  
Laurie Lenfestey  
Lisa Jaramillo  
Lisa Vigil  
Luke George  
Marit Oomens  
Martin Mc Geough  
Matthew Meredith  
Megan Youngblood  
Michael Iten  
Morgan Sliff  
Neil Ratna  
Paola Basso  
Quinn Gallagher  
Richard Gonzales  
Rosa Mundy  
Ruth Coady  
Scott Hussion  
S. Dermoutz  
Shannon M. Corsi  
Susan Pittard  
Sydney Hone  
Taylor Lane  
Viviana Morales Kaizer  
William O'Grady

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