Surfers like to travel, and, luckily, our nomadic tendencies give us the opportunity to learn about the world’s races, religions, and sexual orientations. However, for all of the eye-opening experiences associated with the sport of surfing, there still seems to be very little mention or acknowledgment of surfing’s gay community. There are homosexuals all around the world, in every family, profession, sport and community…and, yes, even in surfing. Although it may challenge the “tough surfer bloke” stereotype, there’s not much we can (nor should) do about it. It’s what we call diversity. It’s a good thing. Sadly, as a longtime surfer, I’ve found that a tragic number of gay surfers are closeted, largely as a result of the sport’s tilt towards homophobia.
This is where the Internet provides a powerful tool for diversity through community building. Like surfing, the Internet has the power to connect people in an instant, and since there’s actually a sizeable homosexual population within the surf community, I was hoping to find a website where gay surfers could meet, speak, and exchange ideas. I searched online for years, but never found one. It begged the questions: Where are all the gay surfers hiding? And why are they hiding?
So one day last year, while riding a wave of optimism and outrage, I decided to build it myself.
GaySurfers.net was born in February 2010 as the first online community for gay surfers. Our mission is simple: to create an interesting and fun site where gay men and women can gather, connect, and share their passion for surfing and other related issues. We keep it clean, interactive, and easy to navigate, and I’ve been amazed at how quickly it has grown. In the first six months, 2,300 gay surfers registered from 76 countries worldwide. That’s quite an accomplishment considering that in the long, decorated history of our sport, only two professional surfers have ever openly shared the fact that they are gay (to my knowledge). You can even name them: Matt Branson and Robbins Thompson. (Thanks guys!)
I get a lot of feedback from members who say that the site has allowed them to realize that they are not alone. It’s an important realization, because mainstream surf media has made few attempts to extend a hand to our community. Our site breaks down prejudice and builds up self-esteem by creating a network of openly gay surfers who understand the trials of being homosexual within surf culture; essentially, we’re making it easier for them to accept themselves. That’s a big part of our mission: to remove shame from the equation and help gay surfers be the best they can be.
I’m especially happy to see so many young surfers joining the community, because I find that the younger guys who are just discovering their homosexuality need the most support and encouragement – especially in light of recent, tragic news of homophobic bullying and suicides among gay teenagers.
It’s not easy to come out to all your mates, but if you want to be happy, I believe it’s necessary. For many years, I hid my own identity as a gay surfer. I thought I’d be excluded if my surf mates knew the truth… until I actually told them and realized they didn’t give a damn! Yep, by the time I divulged my big secret, my mates had traveled the world and been exposed to a lot of different ways of life, so my homosexuality didn’t strike them as a very big deal.
As Gaysurfers.net grows, I hope our message of acceptance and understanding spreads throughout the global surfing community. Nomads unite! Gay or straight, we all share a passion for the greatest sport in the world.