Monyca Byrne-Wickey Leave a Message

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The Inertia

After watching Nike’s female surfing extravaganza Leave a Message, for the second time, I’m left with two distinct but interrelated impressions. First, this generation of female surfers has made a performance jump unlike any that has come before it.  Second, their sex appeal could still be more important for their future professional success.  In fact, Nike bombards us with so much good surfing and so many blatant sexual marketing plugs, it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish between the two in some cases.  So, I’m going to cut the crap and stop acting like I, as a young man, am being asked to judge these girls on their abilities alone.  The following is my review of the surfing and the sexy in Leave a Message.

The movie is divided into roughly three and a half minute profile sections that focus on Nike’s main female lineup: Malia Manuel, Coco Ho, Monyca Byrne-Wickey, Lakey Peterson, Laura Enever, and Carissa Moore.

Malia Manuel is seventeen and looks about 22.  I know this because I Googled her, and because there is a helpful scene in her opening montage that has her running out to the beach when two large, stern looking Hawai’ian men stop the camera andseem to be saying “No Perving!  She’s not even out of her teens!”  It’s corny and somewhat demeaning to suggest that she is a little girl who needs the protection of big strong men, but then again, she is only seventeen, and because the dubious legality of marketing her sex appeal, she ends up with one of the most enthralling sections in the film.  Her backhand in particular is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and the way in which she commands her turns has the same undeniable gravity of a Stephanie Gilmore or a Carissa Moore.  She’s also prettier than either of them, arguably the prettiest girl in the film so assuming she keeps progressing and doesn’t do something stupid like lose the body of a sixteen year old girl, she will be one of her generation’s brightest stars.

Next up is Coco Ho’s section, which underwhelms, though she is probably the most solid, polished, and consistently great surfer in the movie’s lineup.  Unfortunately for both her surfing and marketability, she is a tiny, elfin person, which both impedes the necessary inertia for convincing turns and limits her sex appeal.  You’d like to give her a big hug and maybe bounce her on your knee, but she’s no pinup.  None of this outweighs her natural skill and drive, though.  She should have a long and decorated career – the Rochelle Ballard of generation naught.

The only things I remember about Monyca Byrne-Wickey’s section is that she is gorgeous in an off-kilter way and has an amazing butt.  In fact, her posterior should be given supporting-actor status in the credits. She’s a good surfer too, but based solely on her clips in this film, she’s not on the same level as the rest of the women.  Directors Jason Kenworthy and filmer Aaron Lieber seem to recognize this as they devote an over-the-top number of clips to showing her in the classic surfer chick pose: looking over her shoulder, beckoning you with those dusky Hawai’ian eyes while showing off a Brazilian bikini clad gluteus maximus.  It’s hard to tell how much of this is her own dress choice, and how much is Nike execs saying, “Let’s sell this girl’s ass for all it’s worth,” but it comes off as a lecherous wink from the boys club of old, sleazy marketing execs to the boys club of young, sleazy men like me.

Byrne-Wickey also gets the award for most cringe-worthy moment when she wrestles all of the other girls into submission on the beach while a couple of middle-aged cameramen film/leer.  Yep, just a wrestling match between twenty year-old girls in bikinis filmed by men old enough to be their fathers…nothing to see here.  If she keeps this up, she should have a lucrative career characterized by more modeling than surfing.

After that, Lakey Peterson, the baby of the bunch at 16, delights with power surfing unmatched by any of the girls except Moore. It’s exciting to watch the way she bends a wave to her will.  She also proves to have preternatural comfort above the lip with a slew of airs and grab-rail fin ditches that are among the best single tricks in the movie.  Her forehand carves have a distinctly Taylor Knox flare and she has the distinction of being the only girl to make an appearance in a wetsuit.

On the down side, she suffers slightly from what the industry folks might call Courtney Conologue syndrome – all the ability in the world, but a look that is just a touch too masculine for surf brand chic.  Broad shoulders don’t sell bikinis, Monyca Byrne-Wickey butts do.  However, unlike some less fortunate women, she can be made up to look passably pretty for an American audience that likes its Californian blondes.  Expect, indeed hope for, more from her in the future, but don’t expect too many lifestyle shots.

Laura Enever is a bizarre combination of surfing’s misogynistic status quo and a more hopeful feminine future. She gets the craziest barrels of the video and also drops into a wave wearing thigh-high fishnets.  She seems to understand her sex appeal and deal in it for all that it’s worth, which is no small task for someone in her early twenties. The slow motion shots of her butt while doing backside snaps wearing Brazilian bikinis would make most fathers cringe.  I quite enjoyed them, but then, I suppose that is why most fathers cringe.

Her dredging session at P-pass and its mix of tubes and beatings is glorious in the way it juxtaposes the twig-like girl with the apocalyptic wave.  Her only real shortcoming as a surfer is that she is too sylph-like.  A bit of extra weight would add a lot of gravity to surfing that is simply too flicky.  Of course, a bit of extra weight would also destroy that jailbait sexpot thing she does that helps keep her relevant.  What’s a girl to do?

And finally: Carissa Moore.  I have soft spot for her because she is the only one of the bunch who can look however she pleases because she is so damn good no one can take it away from her.  In her section, Moore demonstrates a spontaneity and effortless style that evokes shades of Slater and Reynolds while remaining unquestionably her own.  Even if you put her power and grace to one side, you are still left with a wave rider who draws startlingly unique and beautiful lines.  Slater is the only other person, man or woman, in pro surfing who displays the same mix of ferocity and devil-may-care playfulness on waves, as if unable to decide if this is high art, or simply a bit of a lark.  Both love to combine front-side snaps with carving 360s; both awe and delight.  Moore has limited sex appeal because she doesn’t fit into the current trend of super skinny girl-women (let’s call them Laura Enevers). Ironically, her extra weight is part of what makes her such a sublime surfer.  She upper cuts lips that the Enevers of the world simply slap at.   This section deserves a spot among great ones.

What a film.  The only problem I can see with it, aside from its staggering lack of takeoffs and bottom turns, is the same problem that all of women’s surfing faces: It is a story about young women that is being written entirely by men.  This is not to say that Kenworthy and Lieber have not created something admirable here – they have, and they have done us all a service by showing us that the term “women’s high performance surfing” no longer needs an asterisk.  Unfortunately, the more the surfing changes, the more the clichés stay the same.   Kenworthy and Lieber, with, I’m guessing, pressure from the old men who run Nike is simply unable to avoid the inevitable “Hey, look at the tits on that beach Betty!” moments.

Why?  The surfing speaks for itself.  The girls are plenty sexy, too – so sexy, in fact, that we don’t need to be bashed across the face with fishnets and ass shots every other frame.  If the film makers would just have a little faith that the natural beauty of each young woman, indeed of all women, would show through in their surfing, we would have a much better product, and paradoxically, a much sexier product.  Instead, the picture is plagued by the ugly, and ultimately boring shadow of female objectification.  But the filmmakers are just doing their jobs, and doing them well.  Same with Nike. They’ve got to sell sports gear and sex is still the best way to do it.  It’s harmless in small doses, but it creates a larger paradigm in which (and see if this sounds familiar to you) girls who are great surfers but aren’t so sexy don’t get featured in the videos, can’t pick up sponsors, and disappear.  The whole sport, if that is indeed what it is to be, instead of just a marketing campaign for small bathing suits, loses out. It’s happened to more than one lady on the World Tour (even today) and it will keep happening as long as we place the same value on a butt as we do on a bottom turn.

This is the way of the world, surfing is no different from other industries, smart women take advantage of their looks to get ahead.  And if you believe in these things enough to say them out-lout and with conviction, I feel sorry for the mother who has to endure your kisses.

Read a female perspective on the film and view photos from the making of Nike 6.0′s Leave a Message. Or just download/watch the full-length, high-res film RIGHT HERE.


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  • Steven

    Wow, Endo. You’re on a roll. That’s a helluva honest review. And funny, too. I nodded in agreement and laughed quite a few times throughout. Please keep ‘em coming!

  • theGeneral

    At least you didn’t pick them apart at all.

  • Stu

    I’m going to disagree on Lakey – she may not be Enever, but she’s hardly Courtney either.  Her surfing’s insane to boot.

  • Stu

    Disagree on Ms. Peterson.  She rips and is just fine to look at.

  • B.R.E.W.

    I’m going to go out on my limb, and try not to be too much of a jerk, while I watch this movie… in private. So I’m not distracted. I hate distractions.

  • Al Baydough

    When I watch women’s tennis I do so for the sport (I get the feeling Nike execs do so as well).

    It would be nice to be able to do the same with women’s surfing and not have the industry do everything in its power to distract me from the performances with frivolous crap. If I want FHM and STUFF I’ll buy FHM and STUFF. 
    Nike, like Burton, just doesn’t get it. 

    • Jacob

      Totally agree Al. It’d be nice to watch a female surf clip without my wife or co-workers thinking I’m looking at kiddy-porn. Can we just watch them surf please?

  • Lainenyc

    Thank you!! A man that speaks from the heart!

  • Scangea

    its clear the girls rip, but the editing was pretty lame and busy. overall i was dissapointed

  • Anonymous

    This is the most sexist article I’ve read from this site.  I am surprised (and disappointed that) the Inertia allowed this article to be posted. You should’ve been critical of the fact women surfers have to live with this kind of BS. Why can’t we just value their surfing talent without hyper sexualizing them (under-aged girls.) Imagine a surf video where waves of Kelly Slater were frequently juxtaposed with shots of him in his underwear, desperately trying to capture if he really “measures” up outside the surf?  

    When talking about Malia you say, “she doesn’t something as stupid as losing the body of a 17 year old.” Brah, if I were you I would avoid any trips to Kauai after writing demeaning crap like that, in Hawai`i that kind of disrespect is grounds for pounding!

    • Stu

      LOL.  Is reading comprehension no longer something schools focus on?  Maybe not in Hawaii?

    • Al Baydough

      Your argument instantly and automatically loses all credibility when you have to resort to threats of violence to make a statement, which ultimately makes you sound like a dumb-ass. Bad pool.

  • Anonymous

    I just finished the article, a better ending. I was so pissed at the first half, I didn’t want to keep reading. I get the irony now, but you still didn’t need to play into it so hard off the start. 

  • Anon

    So, what we can deduce from this is that a woman’s value as a surfer must necessarily include her ability to give a man a stiffy? Mind you, I’m not trying to be funny or critical. You were being honest. I am being honest. (I’m female, by the way.) I, as a female surfer, recognize this. The bottom line seems to me to be that men don’t want to see females surf. Period. Therefore, they must be given another reason to watch a woman surf since obviously, from what’s been stated, talent isn’t enough.

    • B.R.E.W.

      Most men want to watch the best performers, period. That goes for any sport. In surfing, men still happen to be better than women. No person is forced to watch anyone surf… (at least until the Chinese decide they want to form an Olympic surfing team). If men choose to watch women surf, it may be for a variety of reasons, many of which you may not agree with – but the best talent on earth is not one of those reasons.
       
      Yet.
       
      That gap is closing quicker than it ever has, and has the opportunity to close tighter than many other professional sports. That’s a good thing.

      • Al Baydough

        Perhaps. But Anon’s observations are spot on while yours have yet to be realized in surfing.

        Most men I know who watch other women’s sports do so for the sport, not the sexed up version of it.

        • just a dude keeping it real

          Anon’s point that talent alone is not enough for most people is right. That’s why most women’s sports have far less fans than men. There are always exception to this rule Al. But most men would rather watch Dane Reynolds than Malia Manual if you limit the point of watching to pure sport.

        • Stu

          which is why female tennis players still wear long dresses when they play.  Oh, wait.

        • B.R.E.W.

          You know all three of those guys?

      • Guest1

        Do we always have to compare women’s surfing to men’s? I tire of hearing “In surfing, men still happen to be better than women”. They are just different. Different bodies, different styles. I don’t think one is better than the other, and why must men’s be the benchmark for comparisons? Talk about a patriarchal society… I did really enjoy this article. It adressed a lot of subjects I have been thinking about lately – size, sex appeal ect in the women’s surf industry which I find not a lot of people seem willing to write about. How about the all the women’s contests being cancelled this year due to a “lack of sponsorship”? But yet Nike has money to throw down on making fancy surf films?

        • Cori S.

          Instead of fitting ourselves into the pre-established stratum designed by an ad hoc, degenerative surfing hegemony meant solely for upholding an already fragile egoistic masculinity, we best be getting ourselves to more creative/fertile soil. 

          The questions are different when addressing how women do things, yes. Additionally, we ought to be chucking the masculine valuation system to gauge women’s success. Contests may not be the best place for showcasing the feminine in surfing (especially given the fact that the judging criteria is based intrinsically in masculine modalities). Let’s get creative. Let’s stop relying on corporations with money interests only for hand-outs and legitimacy within the status-quo and look to how women are re-shaping the world around us through novel methods. Maybe these “failures” are only so perceived within the conception of success vis-a-vis Big Surfing. Elsewhere, out in the world sans surfer dudesville, they are something quite different… say, opportunities to create what we want to see, buy, watch… we must tell our own stories.

          • Al Baydough

            Cory, do you have any official figures on how much of the industry’s profits are generated from women purchasing their product? 

             It would seem to me that if women really want to emancipate themselves in this market and sport they need to step away from the main body of it and create their own, independent industry. I see this trend growing in other sectors and I’m fairly confident that it can happen in this one. There are so many women involved in surfing on every level now that I get the sense it wold be a good time to make a push.

  • http://makingfriendswiththeneighbours.blogspot.com/ Rebecca

    This is an impressively clever commentary on this films and all the frustrating issues that it represents – insightful, well-written, sharp and respectful. In fact, you disprove your point that men can’t write about, film or photograph women’s surfing without resorting to sexualising them.  Because women can’t be the only ones who are responsible for talking about this, especially since men are generally the ones at the top of surfing’s financial, media and professional food chain. 

    In particular it was great to see you  raise the spectre of power and body size. This has been bugging me for ages – the expectation that slight women can produce the same amount of power i their surfing as muscular men. It’s a crazy expectation and one that is unrealistic. Although good technique can overcome a lot of limitations, there is a physiological trade-off in the end. As some of these comments point out, the high-performance bars are being raised, but even this discredits the amazing women’s surfing that has been going on for years.  Perhaps it just looks different to the ways many men surf, or perhaps, just perhaps, you weren’t looking at all! In the end though, it’s all still surfing. 

    The sexualisation of these young women is, as you point out, both demeaning and  disturbing.  This is not to say that women can’t enjoy their femininity – dresses, make-up, heels and jewellery are a lot of fun and are a part of my everyday – but to exclude women who don’t enjoy those things as much, or whose bodies are muscular, powerful or even masculine, is just unfair and discriminatory. No, I’m not claiming that any of this is insightful, but it’s depressing that we are STILL having these discussions, while STILL expecting women’s surfing to change into something it isn’t. 

    This stuff is really difficult to talk about, because it’s about young women, surfing performances, sex and how we feel about all those things. So thanks for taking the time to write this and for taking a look at this film from such an interesting and thoughtful perspective.

  • lawless

    “It is a story about young women that is being written entirely by men.”

    Why don’t you write about the antithesis to that and do an article on Dear & Yonder – http://www.villavillacola.com/about.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/drew.scalia Drew Scalia

    Hmmm I’ve got to say that I have a few issues with your review Mr. Endo!  You’re absolutely right about the use of sexual innuendo and I appreciate the way you address it.  I think you drew it out a bit too much though in suggesting that some of the girls weren’t sexy though.  I mean it doesn’t even matter really because these girls are not Victoria’s secret models (Nothing against VS models either but you don’t see them blowing the guts out of lip or boosting airs do you?!)  I think this film is very well done – it’s nice to see some high quality production value in any surf video and there are some killer details in this one – check the brief slo-mo at 06:30 highlighting the fan that Coco Ho throws!  Some of the girls are hotter than others in this film and that’s just life – and some of them rip a little harder than others and that’s also just life.  Bottom line here, for me, is that this is a well made film highlighting women’s surfing and the surfing in the film is top notch as is the production of the film.  I, for one would like to se more! 

  • Al Baydough

    All three of you missed the point. 

  • another local

    I enjoyed reading your commentary, but would like to interject one thing: 

    You discussed the two stern men standing guard at the beginning of Malia Manuel’s section.  They aren’t acting as her sexual guardians, but are playing the part of the “angry Kauai local.”  The truth is you simply cannot film on Kauai (my home too) and I think that scene in particular was created to illustrate that.  “Keep it Kauai-it” as they say.

  • Jesmarín Puente

    Ted my friend, don´t be so macho, before you die I know you will ask for a man!

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  • Al Baydough

    Your attitude is detrimental to the development of the species. Ironic how men have, for centuries, forced on women behaviors and vanities that weaken the genetic code of our kind. Grow a pair and rise above the status quo thinking of ignorant ideologues, I dare ya’. That’s what “keeping it real” is truly all about.