A few years back I worked in an office that held a lot of meetings. There were brainstorming meetings, planning meetings, strategy meetings, client meetings, staff meetings, followed by more brainstorming meetings and follow-up meetings… My notepad was chock-a-block full with notes from all these meetings and I had very little time to act on anything that was spoken about in the meetings.
It really seemed like they were avoiding doing any ‘real’ work by having so many meetings… The big boss finally caught on and held a huge meeting to tell everyone to stop having meetings and just get on with actual work. It was one big meeting to end them all. Pretty funny right? I’m just going to throw the word ‘meetings’ in one more time… Meetings. Yes, it’s annoying.
This is kind of how I feel every time I read an article talking about ‘What’s horribly wrong with women’s surfing’. I’m now writing an article on what women’s surfing doesn’t need in the hope to end them.
To be brutally honest, I’m sick of these full-on articles on how women’s surfing needs ‘this’ and ‘that’ and how we need to stop being sexualised, start earning more money from surfing and start being respected. I’m sick of people comparing women’s surfing to men’s surfing and people talking about women’s surfing needing ‘saving’.
Yes, I will admit that I do look through the occasional surf brand on social media and see a plethora of male surf photos with the majority of the female photos being lifestyle based or stunning girls in bikinis. But I also see that that brand is ultimately selling swimwear and a particular lifestyle and probably makes a fair amount of cash as a result. Do I blame brands that sell beach attire for sexualising women? In a word, no.
Brands that sell women’s beach attire are not the voice of female surfers around the world. They are not a true representation of ‘women’s surfing’ as a whole. Granted some brands are heavily involved in women’s surfing and do a lot for women’s surfing, but somewhere along the line some of us have forgotten that brands are companies and are in business to make money. No, I don’t blame them for anything.
Let’s not forget that a lot of those big brands that are so heavily criticised also sponsor a fair few females that would never conform to the ‘sex sells’ way of promotion. They don a sticker, some branded clothing, do their events and promote their sponsors as they have mutually agreed, and they do an excellent job at it. If I were looking for the right attire for a big wave session, I’d probably look to whatever Keala Kennelly personally prefers. It just so happens she wears Billabong and they have supported her surfing career for a very long time.
Women’s surfing is not in a poor state of being. Women’s surfing is one of the most marketable sports in the world. We are marketable not only as surfers, but as athletes, artists, adventurers, travellers, adrenaline junkies, musicians, models, ambassadors for healthy eating and ambassadors for healthy living. We can be motivational, inspirational, graceful and athletic and we are ultimately doing it for ourselves, because surfing is fun.
We are in an age now where we can connect with thousands of people around the world with the touch of a button. Social media gives girls around the world a platform to project their own image to the public… Sure there are some girls locked into sponsorship contracts that limit what they can say or do on social media, however for the most part, we can share what we like.
We can share images of ourselves surfing in bikini’s or wetsuits, leggings, or a tee-shirt and sometimes we get away with surfing in our birthday suits. There are females out there that actually do spend most of their time in a bikini because they want to. Maybe it’s hot where they live. Maybe they just like surfing in a bikini instead of a rashie and board-shorts. Maybe they are just doing whatever the heck they want and could not care less for how people see them.
Women have every right to be feminine if they so please and we have every right not to be. There are a lot of professional surfers that do share in some risqué images of themselves on social media and partake in some borderline photo-shoots for media platforms. But that is ultimately their choice and again, they are doing it for themselves. Not for the state of women’s surfing. They are individuals. There is no one voice or one representation for women’s surfing. There are many.
Women’s surfing is not just a profession or an industry. It is not just the opinion of one person or what media platforms and brands make us out to be. Women’s surfing does not need saving… It just needs people to stop telling us what we should be, whats wrong with us and just let surfing be fun.
Ps > Meetings.
Girl Surf Network
Cover photo cred: Simon Anderson