Posted: Thursday, September 1, 2011 2:21 pm
By Lily Bixler [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Eva Grady has always been one of the guys. Whether it was growing up in the Santa Cruz Mountains with six brothers, surfing Northern California’s waves, participating in competitive break dancing, or fighting fires at Coastside Fire Protection District, she says she’s used to, “representin’ the girls.”
This week, Grady traveled to New York to do just that: represent women surfers and firefighters in the World Police and Firefighters Games. With sponsorship through Mavericks Surf Shop, she competed in a three-day surf competition at Rockaway Beach, a sandy-bottom beach outside Queens. The games take place every other year at a new location and draw public safety officials from all corners of the world.
When the event was held two years ago in Vancouver, Canada, Grady accompanied her husband who was there to play soccer. Discouraged that there was no break dancing competition, Grady left knowing that she would attend the 2011 games as a participant. During those 2009 games, only two firefighters from CalFire attended. That surprised Grady, since the state agency is among the largest firefighting organizations in the world.
As a little girl, Grady’s parents never told her firefighting was an option.
“My dad used to tell me I couldn’t skin my knee so I could look good in a skirt as a secretary,” she said, only half joking. But Grady says she’s more comfortable working with men than women. Some women who work with men try to be just like the guys, some even start chewing tobacco to feel the part, she said.
At the firehouse, Grady exudes a respect for her colleagues and a toughness tempered with girlish spunk. She started as a seasonal firefighter with CalFire at age 26, after working what she described as “grunt jobs” like waiting and busing tables. In spring 2008, she joined Coastside Fire Protection District, where she now works three days on, four days off.
Part of what drove Grady back to the World Police and Firefighter Games was a desire to connect with other professional police and firefighters from around the world. She brought with her patches to trade with the firefighters she meets.
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