Female Asian scuba diver surrounded by fish underwater.

The realm of extreme sports wasn’t always a playground for women. Many once thought it was “too dangerous” and “too rough” for our delicate skin and frail bodies. Or worse, that our presence would only weigh the men down. Thankfully, those days are gone, and more and more women are taking up space in this risky but thrilling and rewarding arena. Here, Filipinas share why they love their extreme sport and how it empowers them.

Surfing: A Perfect Blend of Skill and Spontaneity

Remember the 2002 seminal hit Blue Crush? It was so ahead of its time because it tackled in surfing sans blatant wokeness, all while showing the real-world struggles of women (like having to clean up a hotel room trashed by men). In the Philippines where the affinity for water runs deep, regardless of gender, it's not unusual to see a woman surf, but it is easy to underestimate what it takes to do so.

Aside from balance, surfing requires flexibility, agility, and strength. And while some surfers believe it’s easier for adult women because of their , some claim it’s more difficult because of curves. For Janine, who has recently gotten into the sport, the sense of accomplishment comes from personal achievements.

In 2022, Janine moved to Siargao and stayed for two months. “That was my , and I was in the surfing capital of the Philippines. I thought it would be a waste if I didn't try it out.” She continues,“I held off on trying it out because Siargao's shores are reef breaks, which makes surfing tough. But the island calls you to try it and just be one with the water. I ended up doing it almost every day.”

“I love how it gives you the ability to dance on water and the adrenaline rush from riding waves with the perfect blend of skill and spontaneity,” Janine shares. “It makes me feel 100% empowered like I’m a force of nature; a woman in tune with the elements and her own strength. More than riding the surf, it's about conquering fears and pushing boundaries. With every ride, I feel a surge of confidence and liberation.”

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Scuba Diving: Overcoming Challenges In and Out of the Water

Scuba diving is always top of mind when it comes to extreme sports, and it has always been dominated by men. However, as of 2022, the percentage of female was at 39-40%, showing how much the sport has evolved from its Aqua-Lung days. In addition, the TikTok hashtag #scubagirl has over 6.2 million views, which says you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy it.

Gaby, 27, has been into water-related extreme sports since her teen years. “I grew up spending summers at our ancestral home that's right by the ocean in Batangas. So even as a young kid, I already had a strong connection to the water. I dabbled in different water sports, but scuba diving was the one that I did consistently even until now.”

Apart from being a full-body workout, diving is also good for . Gaby shares, “Being in the water clears my mind. I consider it a form of active rest. While it is an extreme sport, considering it needs a lot of focus and strenuous effort, I think I am at my calmest when I dive.” She adds, “And I love it because the marine biodiversity is insane! It's otherworldly and that's always fascinating to see. I never get used to it.”

While scuba diving and being in the water has always been second nature to Gaby, these activities continue to challenge and empower her. “Doing difficult things and overcoming them repeatedly boosts one's confidence. If I know what to do, especially in dangerous situations in the ocean, I'm certain I can also meet deadlines at work or achieve the big goals I set for myself. I never see my gender as a barrier to anything,” Gaby says.

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu: Continuous Self-Improvement

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is not one of the more common extreme sports in the Philippines but there is a growing community of women enjoying it. Although “jiu-jitsu” translates to “gentle art,” the sport involves grappling and ground fighting, which may seem uncomfortable for women. However, the reality is it’s a useful practice for improving flexibility, strength, and self-defense techniques. So yes, it’shella empowering.

Jana, a second-degree brown belter, has been practicing BJJ for 15 years, with a few breaks in between to raise her two boys. “I was boxing at the time, and I was getting bored with the repetitiveness of the techniques. I was looking to try something new, and they were offering BJJ classes in our gym,” she shares.

Apart from keeping Jana fit and active, BJJ can be a life coach, too. She says, “I love the life lessons I've learned from it. BJJ teaches you about continuous , humility, and resilience. These are lessons that I apply to both my personal and professional life.”

As a veteran of the sport, Jana encourages women to give it a shot. “While the number of women in the sport is growing, we are still outnumbered. BJJ teaches you that gender doesn't matter – using technique and leverage will help you beat most guys. It also gives you the confidence to know that you can handle yourself in compromising situations.”

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Doing extreme sports is not for everybody, but those who can cut it swear by how empowering and rewarding it can be. If you’re interested in getting into one, talk to professional trainers who can teach you the basics and guide you as you develop your skills, all while keeping you safe.