Surfing and Gender Equality?
Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Last May, I headed to Indonesia with two of my best girlfriends for a month of warm water,
banana pancakes and moped adventures. Each morning was spent sleepily climbing aboard a local fishing boat at 5am in the pitch black in search for perfect waves. Day after day we surfed until we were too hungry, dehydrated and sunburnt for any more waves. We were dreaming in a distant land, a dream where daily decisions revolved around which break to surf, which bikini to wear and asking each other if it was okay to have banana bread for lunch. One thing was missing though, paddling up to a male-dominated line up shouldn’t feel like a barrier of intimidation, it should be a feeling of empowerment that is celebrated by both women and men. Instead? Some days you feel as though you don’t belong there, as though you shouldn’t be there. I can confidently say that without these female friendships, I wouldn’t still be surfing. I can also tell you that on days when I’m thinking about going out alone, I often won’t.
With women only just receiving equal prize money for WSL events, it is apparent that women have been left to trail behind their male counterparts for far too long. Picking up any mainstream surfing magazine it is clear; men are celebrated for power, strength and skill while women are merely reduced to their physical appearance. Living in a country where the reality of surfing is hoods, dry robes and hot flasks of tea – the heavily publicised image of the ultimate ‘surf girl’ running down the beach in a bikini into crystal clear water is far from the truth. Our story is about cold water surfing; it’s about helping each other out of wetsuits because your hands are too numb, it’s laughing at each other when you can’t get your hoods off and most importantly, it’s not revolved around a superficial image, but rather a sisterhood and a safe haven.
Why am I bothering to write this?
I’m writing this because it frustrates me seeing the ‘surfer / model’ pretending they’ve just had a bikini surf at Fistral in 16°c water... dream on. But more importantly, I’m writing this as a self-reminder; a reminder to get out there no matter what the line-up may look like because let’s face it, no one ever got better at surfing by staying on the shoreline out of fear.