Sign In:


Last Step!

Please enter your public display name and a secure password.

Plan to post in the forums? Change your default forum handle here!

Check Out Our Shop

We are Like Waves by Jordyn Romero: A Film to Inspire

We are like Waves Teaser from Jordyn Romero on Vimeo.

We Are Like Waves, a documentary by Jordyn Romero that's out now, follows the story of Sanu Sandeepani, one of the first local, female surfers from Sri Lanka. On the south coast of Sri Lanka, surfing is everywhere, yet local girls are discouraged from participating in the sport. Instead, they’re expected to stay home and concentrate on housework, getting married and caring for children. Sanu is challenging the strict gender roles of her village and dreams of becoming the first woman surf instructor in her country. Despite the losses and judgment she has had to face, She found a home in the ocean, and her passion for surfing has grown, becoming a part of her identity, and a constant facet for joy in her life.

Jordyn Romero, a Santa Fe, NM native, first happened upon the organization that Sanu is a part of called Sea Sisters via a friend's podcast, The Salted Spirit. Sea Sisters is an organization that believes the ocean is for everybody and offers swim and surf lessons for Sri Lankan women to help them “enjoy the ocean and influence mindsets around gender norms.” After reaching out to the organization through Instagram, she discovered Sanu’s story and was set on making this film happen. She took out a personal loan to cover the cost of plane tickets and gear, and started production in Sri Lanka just two months later.

We sat down with Jordyn to chat about her journey in making the film, We Are Like Waves, and the impact that a project like this had on her as a budding filmmaker determined to share real stories about real people.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in filmmaking?

I was born and raised in Santa Fe, NM and that’s where I found my love for the outdoors. I was a big snowboarder, dabbled in mountain biking, hiking, camping, and just grew up loving the outdoors. My mom grew up in California so we would go back once a year to visit and that’s where I first picked up a love for surf culture and because of that I was gung-ho on going to college in California and becoming a surfer. That was always my dream.

I ended up attending Chapman University in Orange County and originally I was undeclared. But after watching the John John Florence surf movie, View from a Blue Moon in my dorm bed, I was like “I should apply to film school.” So my sophomore year I transferred into the documentary program at Chapman.

My only experience with filmmaking before going into the program was making ski edits on a GoPro. I would just make terrible ski edits of my friends, thinking we were so good.

When I declared documentary filmmaking as a major, my life was just consumed with surfing, and I was full-on addicted. I wanted to make surf films, but lacked likeminded classmates. All of my personal class projects had to do with surfing, if I could get away with it.

For my senior thesis, Of the Sea, I got to tell the story of my friend Katherine. We went down to Costa Rica to shoot. In the film, Katherine talks about earth stewardship, escaping as a Vietnam refugee, being a mother, and her eco-friendly bikini company. Of the Sea was the first film that was felt like mine.

We Are Like Waves is my child. The process for this story started 6 months after I graduated in that weird phase where I was like “I don’t know what I’m doing, I have no purpose,” but once I heard the story, I thought “this is my path, let's go!”WhenI found out about the story for We are Like Waves, I got out of my lease in California, took out a loan, and bought a one-way ticket to Sri Lanka to make the film.

What inspired you to tell this story?

I originally found out about this story through The Salted Spirit podcast, Stacie interviews water women from all around the world. I happened to be listening to an episode that featured one of the co-founders of Sea Sisters, Amanda Prifti.

It was one of those things that I couldn’t get out of my mind for several weeks. So, I decided that I should just reach out. I DM’d them introducing myself and basically said “Can I come to Sri Lanka and make a film?” I asked if there was anyone in their program whose story I could tell. They replied so quickly explaining that my message was so synchronistic, because they’d been wanting to tell a story about their program. There was one girl in their program that surfed outside of their weekly meetup, and that was Sanu.

It all happened so fast. I had a call with them and they were down for me to come. I officially decided over Thanksgiving of 2019, and had to be there by January. I didn’t have time to fundraise or anything. I brought my friend Leah with me to serve as my right-hand-women and fellow producer. We were there for six weeks. It was an incredible risk. But I had a deep down gut feeling that we were going to tell a really good story and that it was all going to work out.

What was it like to film such a personal story?

It was very important for me to establish a relationship with Sanu. We were there for six weeks, but for the first two weeks I was there, I didn’t even pull out a camera. All I did was hang out with Sanu every day. We would go for a surf or we’d go on long walks. Trying to make a friend in two weeks the best I could,, as well as just trying to understand what Sri Lanka is like.

One of the things that I wanted to be conscious of was “here I am just an American girl coming to a foreign country to tell this story.” It's easy to white-wash a story like this, and I wanted her in every part of the process, making her a part of our crew. Throughout the process we brought her into our crew meetings, making sure that we were staying true to her story.

We wanted to keep it authentic. I think in an ideal world, if there had been a Sri Lankan filmmaker to tell her story that would have been amazing. But it felt like, if we weren’t there to do it, her story wouldn’t have been told. We were merely vessels through which Sanu could tell her own story. Keeping her voice at the center of the film was so important to us.

What were some of the challenges you faced filming We Are Like Waves?

Well, the fact that Sri Lanka is hot as heck, for one. You can’t go outside from 10-3 or you’ll melt.

Realistically, the biggest challenge was the language barrier. The film is not in English. This was the first foreign film that I ever worked on, and that was a little tricky. Sanu speaks good English, because she works at the surf school, but it’s not her native language. We wanted her to be most comfortable when interviewing her and with scenes that included her parents and friends who didn’t speak english. Filming those scenes, we had absolutely no idea what was going on at times. We had a translator, but she wasn’t always giving us feedback. It wasn’t until I got home, started editing the film, and got it properly translated that I was able to know exactly what was being said. That was a huge gamble.

What was a rewarding experience in the process?

Wow, it came way later in the process. We had a screening down in Encinitas, CA, where we showed the film alongside a couple of other female surfing stories. Afterwards, a girl came up to me and Leah, she happened to be Sri Lankan, and grew up in America. She was so touched by the film, and shared with us how much she related to Sanu’s story. Even growing up in America, she dealt with similar expectations and restrictions from her family. She said she’s always wanted to learn how to surf, growing up in San Diego, and she felt inspired by Sanu doing it in Sri Lanka. It gave her the confidence to go and try surfing herself!

To have a real person come up to you and say that they were touched by your film is a really special experience. It really meant a lot.

What impression do you hope your film leaves with the audience?

We wanted to show people around the world that you don’t have to put yourself in a box. You don’t have to go against your culture or try to change the world, but we wanted to inspire others to not be afraid to be the first person to go out and do something.

Take surfing out of the film, and replace it with anything you want to do, and hopefully at the end of the day, the core message of the film is something that aligns with you.

I remember when I first moved to California I was so pumped to learn to surf and be surrounded by girls who wanted to surf. But I did not see another girl in the water for years. It’s so intimidating and frustrating and you don’t realize how hard it is to not have a community. I remember the first time that I paddled out with a group of girls. It was an insane vibe change and it was so fun. Ever since, I am driven to create a community for women in my films.

How did the film affect you personally?

I think the timing of the film was such a gamble in hindsight. We finished filming in February of 2020 and then in March the pandemic hit. I was back in New Mexico and didn’t even start editing the film for a while. There was the Black Lives Matter resurgence at the time that made me hyper aware of the fact that we were just a bunch of Americans that went down to Sri Lanka and filmed Sanu’s story.

Even though we went out there with the intention of being very culturally conscious of our place as storytellers, it made us sit down and discuss if we were the right people to tell her story and our role as filmmakers. It puts everything into perspective. Because of that, it took us several months to start editing.

At the end of the day, I am very confident in our approach in telling this story, and making sure that Sanu was always a part of the process.

This film has helped guide me in the films that I’ve made since, really letting the character drive their story, instead of trying to make the film through my eyes. As documentary filmmakers, we are just there to help give their voice a platform. 

We Are Like Waves is available to watch on Vimeo now!

From The Column: Women in the Mountains

About The Author

Have you ever played cookie clicker? It’s really easy to play and you can play with your friends, But how can you increase the number of cookies so much without clicking on it. I want to see the number of cookies increase day by day without doing anything? Is there any way?

Nice short film. Very entertaining. Thanks you for sharing.
concrete walkways teanek nj