At the turn of the millennium, the international image of professional sportswomen in Iran was simply not there – but, times are changing. In this four part series, we applaud the women that have overcome all odds to redefine the rules. Here, we conclude with Mona Seraji, the woman that made her mark on snow and sea leavng men in her wake.
Before she took to the waves with Easkey Britton, Mona Seraji was a proficient snowboarder. “When I first strapped my feet onto the board, I felt like I had found a missing part of my body,” she smiles. A favourite pastime amongst Iranians, skiing has been a definitive part of Persian culture since 1938. And today superb hotels like Shemshak’s newly opened and architecturally inspired Barin and Iran’s initiation of the World Alpine Skiing and World Para Snowboard Competitions solidify the importance of winter sports for the country.
From the age of eight you could find Seraji spending her weekends on the slopes with her mother. “I was immediately in love with the snow and mountains,” she recalls. Her first experience of snowboarding came later at the age of 15 when, by chance, her skis fell from her sister’s car rendering them unusable. Recalling a shop selling snowboards, Seraji took a chance on a new direction and never looked back.
Challenging any objective that comes in her way Seraji continues to advocate the spirit of adventure to young Iranian women
Dividing her time between the three main resorts surrounding Tehran, Shemshak, Darbandsar and Dizin Seraji’s skills on the snow quickly garnered attention. The self-belief demonstrated by Persian sportswomen is a palpable force, but when Seraji made the decision to abandon her career as a designer she was met with a certain level of objection form those around her. “Initially my family disagreed with me trying to snowboard as a profession,” she recounts. “Such a thing was not common back in those days.” But in time her success helped to alleviate those concerns. “Now, my parents are supporting me to the fullest, they have begun to believe that there are different ways to be successful in life,” she shares.
Seraji started her year as the first person from the Middle East to compete in the Freeride World Qualifier, an astonishing feat in itself, but made all the more remarkable considering the sizable injury she sustained in 2013. “I was injured over-shooting a kicker on the Dizin Ski Slope, fooling around with my friends,” she recalls. “It left me with a broken spine and now I’ll have two mental rods in my spine forever.” But like all twists of fate Seraji’s injury opened her up to another new opportunity and sport. When Dr. Britton arrived she was an ideal candidate to be one of the first to join her on the waves. “Surfing in my own country just six months post spinal surgery felt amazing,” she enthuses. “It helped me to regain my courage.”
Challenging any objective that comes in her way Seraji continues to advocate the spirit of adventure to young Iranian women. And amidst her high-octane schedule running the numerous community-driven projects that spun from her surfing encounter, perfecting her sport, not to mention making a living as a snowboard instructor Seraji’s relentless energy has given her a pivotal role amongst the remarkable Persian women defining the image of the powerful sportswoman in Iran.