In Bangladesh, 80% of the population lives on less than $2 per day. Approximately half the children are stunted from malnutrition and Nasima Akter was born at the very bottom of the social spectrum. At seven, her family abandoned her after refusing to beg in the street. Later, alone and wandering her hometown’s filthy beach, Nasima saw a man walking–flying–across the Indian Ocean’s waves. It was Jafar Alam, Bangladesh’s only surfer and whatever he was doing, Nasima wanted to try it. Over the next seven years, Jafar, Nasima, and a few other local surfers formed the ragtag “Bangladesh Surf Club.” The club became Nasima’s refuge and family.
Unable to afford school, surfing became Nasima’s life, a rare joy that allowed her to escape the poverty, sickness, and corruption surrounding her. The boys in the club became her brothers. Surfing daily for hours, Nasima got unusually good – fast. But even surfing fully clothed, Nasima was taunted, teased and abused by the men who called her a whore for going in the water. When other girls started following her lead and joining the club, fundamentalist clerics declared surfing officially forbidden. But Nasima’s perseverance and talent finally paid off when, as a 14-year-old girl, she shocked judges by beating the best of the boys in a locals-only contest with her athletic and joyful surfing style. The win earned her about $100 US dollars – more than a month’s salary in Bangladesh.
By the following year, Nasima’s dream of surfing professionally was growing dim. After years of absence, her parents suddenly returned to claim the prize money. Jafar and the surf club began breaking up. The club, Nasima’s only family, was being torn apart, and she was pregnant after a hasty marriage to a 17-year-old local boy whose conservative family forbid Nasima to continue surfing with threats of shame and beatings. They tried to keep her away from the water, but it could not work. She announced her plans to compete in the next competition even while still pregnant. Just weeks before the competition, a miscarriage sent Nasima into the hospital. Lying in pain and still bleeding, Nasima knew she wasn’t well enough to compete when the contest day came. But defying all expectations–including her own–she somehow found the strength and entered anyway, and won! At the time, Nasima now sixteen–willful, talented, beautiful and uncertain she looks towards the future. The Most Fearless is the story of Nasima and her friends, the young surfers of Bangladesh, challenging the world on their own terms and inspiring us along the way.
The Most Fearless, An Unexpected Surf Story – Feature Documentary in Post Production has been in the works for sometime now with an uncertain release date. Learn more about Nasima and her story below.
The Most Fearless Surfer – Huffpost September, 2012
The Girl Who Isn’t Allowed to Surf – Surfer Today January, 2013
Meet the First Female Surfer in Bangladesh, 18-Year-Old Game-Changer Nasima Akter – Marie Clarie July, 2015
See How One Women Surfer Is Making Waves in a Muslim Country – Take Part August, 2015