Hakea Woman: Thembi Hanify founder of Emocean Magazine

thembi hanify founder emocean magazine


We had the absolute pleasure of chatting to the inspiring Thembi Hanify, founder and one half of our favourite surf mag; Emocean. Frustrated by the lack of representation of BIPOC, LGTBQ and female voices in the world of surf publications, she launched Emocean with her friend Mariah Ernst. Today, it provides a much needed platform for the rest of the world’s population to tell their unexcavated stories.

We chat too Thembi about what a day in her life looks like and how she balances work with adventures. 


For those that don’t know, could you share a bit about Emocean magazine and why you started it? 

Emocean is an every-person surf magazine built around the values of diversity, radical creativity, relatability and empowerment. We especially aim to highlight the voices of women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ surfers. The idea for this came about basically just from a slow building frustration of flicking through the pages of well known surf publications and barely seeing a woman in there, let alone a woman actually surfing, or a black surfer, or a gay surfer. As I became more immersed in surf history I also felt frustration learning about these idolized, well documented historical figures who were 90% straight white men and thinking ‘where are the stories and documentation of pioneering female surfers? Surfers of color? Queer surfers?’ I sent out a Google survey one day to mostly female surfer friends asking what their interests would be to see in a surf magazine, what they felt was lacking in current media etc. Mariah Ernst, Emocean’s editor in chief, who I had become friends with on IG through her incredible account @a_chill_history_of_surf (one of the very few places where minority group surfers’ stories were being documented, now @emocean.surf), replied to my email within like 12 hours saying ‘Are you thinking of doing a mag? If so, I’m in!’. I’m the design and creative director part, Mariah is the writing and editing part. Together we have a pretty great range of skills covered. And that’s how it all started.


The way that the surf industry and community is changing gives me a lot of hope, and our aim is that Emocean can play a part in pushing that along.



What’s been your favourite part about the Emocean project so far?

The best part for me has been when our contributors turn in stories and photos. I get chills each time I read our contributors’ stories and pore over their images. It’s honestly like creating your own inspiration board. Each person who has been profiled in Emocean or has contributed to Emocean inspires me so much. I feel lucky to get the sneak preview while I’m designing the layout, before it goes out into the world! The way that the surf industry and community is changing gives me a lot of hope, and our aim is that Emocean can play a part in pushing that along.


You’re a surfer too. How long have you been surfing for and where did you get into it?

I’ve been surfing (properly) for about six years now. I grew up in Brisbane, but sadly I just always felt really intimidated and overwhelmed by the super macho, male dominated lineups at that time, so I never learned properly in Oz. Of all places, I really got into surfing while I was living in Rockaway Beach in NYC. A bunch of girls and I rented a big house out there one summer and we would all go out at the crack of dawn, no matter the conditions, and egg each other on. It was just pure fun and support and positivity. That was the environment I needed personally to really get into it. Now I’m happy with my right hand point breaks and consistent year round surf in Ventura County, California ; )


thembi hanify


thembi hanify



You’re also the owner of tnmph.xyz creative design studio. How do you balance these two pursuits?

There is a definite symbiotic relationship between the two… meaning, one makes the money to fund the other!!! I’ve drifted between more all-consuming short term project based freelance gigs, and then more stable, 9-5 ‘permalance’ gigs. At the moment I’ve been leaning towards the latter, because it provides a stability of income and the time I need to focus on developing Emocean. I try to manage my time as best as I can, but sometimes it does get hard juggling both worlds. I do feel so grateful though to get to be creative in both my passion projects and paid work!


It looks like you manage to squeeze in a good dose of adventures in between work — how do you navigate the pressures of business while maintaining doing the things you love? 

Again, it can definitely be hard, and at the moment I am working through unpacking a ‘perfectionist / people pleaser’ complex which has honestly been more detrimental to me than good. I’m working on things like not stressing about replying to something immediately, prioritising the to-do list, saying no to things, not stressing about what others might think, and knowing when I’ve reached the end of my tether with something and need to take a break. Just going for a walk or stepping outside instantly helps. I am very lucky to live in an area where nature is abundant, therefore adventure is never far away… a short drive to the beach or a short walk to a hike allows me that luxury. Sticking to freelance work also allows me in a larger sense to have more control over my time, and therefore carve out more room for adventure.


What does a day in your life look like? 

Wake up, meditate or stretch if I feel like it (though honestly this doesn’t happen as often as I’d like!), try and get a chunk of email and IG communications out of the way first thing, log on to my permalance design gig, package up the day’s Emocean orders and drop them off at the post office on my lunch break, then with summer and daylight savings happening right now, if the wind is chill, I’ll head down to the beach to surf in the early evening. If the surf is bad, I’ll go for a walk or a hike and eat dinner outside on the patio. Then a bit of mindless TV before bed!


thembi hanify


Could you share a favourite film, quote, or poem you’ve loved recently?

I watched Stephanie Gilmore, Nikki Van Dijk, Tyler Wright, Macy Callaghan, and Dimity Stoyle's movie ’Surfing’ the other day and was very stoked on it. The music, direction and graphics were so good. Not to mention surfing. There needs to be more female ‘surf porn’!!! Such a pleasure to watch and also made me really homesick for Oz.

Thembi wears the Dune Crop in mustard and Sol Short in stone. Get your hands on the latest copy of Emocean Magazine here and keep an eye out for our first ever surf film coming soon!


emocean magazine

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