3-Time World Longboard Champion


Alana Blanchard

For every one shot of a woman actually surfing, there were twelve and a half more images of men surfing. Unfortunately, in both image and content, the surf media is right in-line with mainstream sports whose own media often trivializes and minimizes the accomplishments of female athletes. Alana Blanchard. Photo: CourierMail.com.au

In the world of surfing, as in any other cultural hegemony that values American masculinity to the exclusion of other perspectives, the feminine is the Other, the “like me but hotter,” and is conceived of as an object with a greater or lesser ability to sexually arouse the male libido… the woman. Masculinity is perceived as the virile, risk-taking, aggressive and valorized male who dominates waves and women. Each stereotype carries consequences. For women, being objectified and reduced to their ability to arouse the male libido can exclude them as they age, occlude their accomplishments, lead to eating disorders, open them up to sexual violence, etc. For men, risk-taking and aggression can lead to death by monster-wave-hold-down, brawls in the line-up, imprisonment, substance abuse, overdose, or countless other problems.

The oligarchy of the surf industry (the Association of Surfing Professionals [ASP], surf clothing and accessories companies, surfboard manufacturers, surf media, etc.) ignores the consequences of the gender driven stereotype. It goes to great lengths to create and maintain these images within surfing as it attempts to move from a marginalized sport to a more mainstream, higher profit-making institution. Sports have been estimated to be the sixth largest industry in the United States, averaging between $213-324 billion annually. The surf industry regulates the identity of surfers so it can present a unified, “clean” image to emerging global markets in order to get a larger slice of the pie. The vision of surfing is tailored from the top down, with surfers being presented to the world-at-large as a homogenized group through event broadcasting and media content.

The majority of the ASP’s money originates from the largest surf brands: Quiksilver, Billabong, Rip Curl and O’Neill. These surf companies are able to make decisions about surf events through two “event representative” seats on the ASP’s board of directors. Of the seven seats available, two have recently been given to independent directors, Angus Murray and Kathy Kendrick, who bring a more global, mainstream vision into the boardroom. Murray offers experience with the sponsorship, online/new media and mobile marketing of Formula 1 while Kendrick hails from the Walt Disney Company and Dreamworks SKG. These independent consultants were brought in, not from the sport of surfing, but from within the business world–a world that values image over integrity and marketing over principles. Recent changes to the ASP tour illustrate a renewed surge within the surf industry toward mainstream acceptance with a loss in quality of events for surfers.

The oligarchy established by the largest surf brands also exerts massive control over the content of surf media. They have been known to walk into the main surf media offices in order to pick and choose what audiences/consumers see in the surf media. Maintaining and directing the image of surfing through the media is of paramount importance. This is most obvious, not through those stories and images that are printed, but in the limited amount of content that provides dissident opinions, voices or viewpoints.

This is also made clear through the actions and words of those entrenched in the surf media as they take the time to attack or otherwise intimidate emerging online media outlets that seek to present diverse viewpoints on surfing, surfers and surfing’s cultural hegemony.

Stories submitted that might damage the image the surf industry wishes to portray are ignored or the writers paid a kill fee, ostensibly to keep a controversial story out of the surfing conscious. Blatant shock-jock stories aside (they prey on aggravation and hostility while having no consciousness altering value), controversy is pervasive in mainstream media and while the value of controversy might be argued, its absence in surf media suggests the fragility of the image the surf industry is seeking to maintain. The surf media wishes to appear devoid of any controversy, at any cost, in order to maintain a “clean” image.

What is this carefully constructed and closely monitored image? A quick content analysis of any surf print magazine or online surf site shows surfing to be an activity primarily composed of white, risk-taking, athletic, heterosexual men. Surfing certainly isn’t touted for its diversity.

One group that seems to have had a modicum of success penetrating the projected image is that of female surfers (there were more pictures of women in the June 2011 print issues of Surfer, Surfing and TWS than non-white males). This may be a deceptive snapshot, however, given that the June print issue of Surfing Magazine spent two pages advertising its swimsuit issue and the upcoming Nike 6.0 Leave a Message women’s surf film. This film prompted a story in the June print issue of Surfer Magazine along with ads in each magazine. For every one picture of a woman in these three print issues, seven of men could be found. For every one shot of a woman actually surfing, there were twelve and a half more images of men surfing. Unfortunately, in both image and content, the surf media is right in-line with mainstream sports whose own media often trivializes and minimizes the accomplishments of female athletes.

1 2

  • Carla


  • Chris Grant, JettyGirl.com

    How fortunate I am to read what we were discussing at the Plumeria V1.0 talks. While at the Bud Light Lime comp this weekend, there was one particular eye-opening moment for me  that right when the words left this person’s mouth (a non-surfer but someone integral to the event), you popped straight into my head. I’ll save the story for Plumeria V2.0 though. Great job Cori!

  • TheGeneral

    In my perspective, as an older 90’s version of the modern female board sport enthusiast, who has muscles and enough brains to say that Feminism doesn’t hold its place here.
    I thought women in sport had superfluous amounts of self-confidence? The new-age Tom boy is prettier. Yes! True. But your first paragraph has me reeling. Saying that this kind of female attention leads to eating disorders and sexual violence for girls, which then becomes a pissing contest for men. It’s just an unsatisfactory idea to me.
    Why do some women never stop trying to put themselves in the same category as men?
    I understand that you’re not jealous of these girls in the bikini ad press, that you’re worried about the state of girl’s surfing, and the over sexualized threat of having a hot ass, but if you really wanted me to get your point you wouldn’t have used a photo of Alana Blanchard from behind and found one that, although might of had less clicks, would support your ideals with more justice.

    The Women’s skate comps for big contests used to be at 8am on Sunday mornings with little monetary award for their skills, but now you see plenty of pro girls/companies hosting girls only events with better prizes, and I’m under the assumption that they’re happy and positive about running stuff for themselves. And are very supportive of each other. If you want better outcomes then you have to change that for yourself, you don’t just start counting calories and complain about all the hot chicks.

  • Al Baydough

    The Devil’s Advocate speaks:

    This is a difficult subject to tackle to be sure, especially when you consider the general romantic appeal of the surfing lifestyle. Before the missionaries came along Hawaiian women surfed naked. This historical fact still has strong visceral appeal with powerful undertones echoing through the human psyche. Women, too, feel this as evidenced by Susan Casey’s belief that all male surfers should be – and look – like Laird Hamilton. Not many male surfers, let alone men in general, can live up to that standard.However, I do recall the copious amounts of criticism mindlessly and hypocritically launched at Occy when he posed naked for a Peak Wetsuits ad and the spiteful indignation that the soulier-than-thou crowd still cast at Slater for his Baywatch stint, People’s 50 Most Beautiful People appearance, Interview Magazine cover, and recent streaking in SI (among others). With reference to Occy’s skin stint it is interesting to note that O’Neill’s topless woman in the infamous 70’s ad is considered a stylish classic and Wendy Botha’s appearance in the Aussie Playboy was mostly favorably received, as was Layne Beachley’s semi-controversial nude appearance.Recall, also, Mary Osbourne’s Penthouse interview: what I found peculiar about this episode was that her most vocal male critics all owned a copy, not only of this particular issue but of many others as well.

    What this all seems to point to is that the double standards in surfing (and all of sports, really) are an issue for both sides of the gender equation (and more than that when you factor in the raging homophobia in surf culture). The complexities are numerous and I find that men and women alike have a lot of jealousy, inconsistency, and hypocrisy to contend with within themselves.Sports are sexy. Beach sports a good deal more so. Separating and segregating the sexiness of the sport is undoubtedly going to be nigh on impossible. People who engage in sports, and particularly those who achieve a high level of athleticism, are inherently sexier than most. Athleticism also increases sexual apetite in those who participate. 

    All that said, I would agree that context is what’s really at issue in this debate. To sum it up with tidy phraseology I would state that neither women nor men should be reduced to nor denied their sexuality – especially in sports. Somewhere there is a happy medium. Women appear to be far more tolerant of men being portrayed as both sexy and athletic, often at the same time. Men, on the other hand, demonstrate considerable hypocrisy in this regard. If men are going to encourage the sexualization of women then they need to be willing to accept the same in return of their male sports heros.No doubt a woman’s sex appeal, especially in surfing, takes precedence over her actual abilities. I do personally take issue with the fact. I was definitely disappointed with Nike’s Leave a Message (apparently, heavy breathing is the kind of message they are encouraging callers to leave) as it was clearly a poorly edited skin flick more than a true surf video, even though the performances were truly groundbreaking. 

    I definitely agree that in order for female surfers to be taken seriously as athletes they must focus on the athleticism and leave the Brazilians to sunbathing rather than bottom turns. By the same token, I do feel that there is a way to demonstrate the sexiness of the sport and its participants in a context that is proper without being prudish. How?Perhaps we should let the women decide.

    • CoriS

      Al, Thank you for such a thoughtful reply. I had a hard time with “Leave a Message” as well. 

      Sports, as an institution, is one of the most powerful agencies of modeling gender roles/performance in our culture… for men, far longer than for women. I don’t believe that pushing/accepting a more sexually objectified masculinity somehow “balances” the equation. Rather, the very lens through which we view the masculine and the feminine ought to be called into question. This, as you said, is complex in sports because we have this Cartesian idea that the body and the mind are separate, so we objectify the body to the extreme in sports while ignoring the rest of the being/athlete. 
      As industry sponsorships seek ever younger athletes (10-14 year olds), it is becoming more important to nurture self-efficacy and self-esteem that evolves from within rather than from external sources. I personally have no problem with a healthy sexuality or a healthy body image. I believe, as you do, that there is a healthy balance to be obtained. Both women and men should feel free to influence the image of the sport and the industry ought to listen… but where there ought to be a voice, I have found there to be only a vacuum. “Blank slates” are rewarded, not minds.  

      • Al Baydough

        Interestingly enough, the “blank slates” get forgotten over time. Those with the capacity to make an intelligent statement echo through the ages. Kournikova is an excellent example. Navratilova and Billy Jean left far more indelible impressions. Female surfers should take note of this fact.

         Look at the difference between women beach volleyball players and surfers. It’s embarrassing (for the surfers that is).

        A big part of the problem is that women in other sports, more often than not, have at least some college under their belts; most have a degree. In surfing, higher education is virtually scoffed at and the effects of this are evident on both sides of the gender fence. And it is very obviously detrimental on a number of levels. All you have to do is compare commentators from virtually every other major sport to those in surfing and you can’t help but cringe. One would get the impression that books are a surfer’s kryptonite.
        The surfing industry is clearly not known for its savvy professionalism, which is why they bring in big guns from outside the sport. I can’t fault Murray and Kendrick; it’s not like they have a lot to work with when it comes to professional surfers, who are generally pretty one-dimensional personalities. 

        If women in surfing want real respect they need to start emulating the Jonis and Anis more than the Jessicas and Britneys.The Hit Maker Machinery loves its bimbos. “Room for one more, honey.”

  • erBB

    Jetty Boy has thunder thighs . . .

  • Winston Smith

    the past, when people still read magazines and newspapers and magazines
    and newspapers turned a profit, publishers had to insure that editorial
    content was absolutely separate from advertising under law and threat
    of financial penalties.  You can see a remnant of these standards in the
    ASME Guidelines for Editors and Publishers.  http://www.magazine.org/asme/asme_guidelines/guidelines.aspx  These ideals were thrown
    under the bus as magazines lost readers, revenues and relevance while
    drowning in red ink.  Does anyone know if such standards exist on the
    Internet?  The advertorial lines are blurred on Surfline beyond making
    even a token effort to present unbiased reporting.

    • ctwalrus

      Unbiased reporting in surfing is like waiting for the finding of that  lost honest person in politics 

      the erosion of the ASME guides is what took me away from the printed surf journals—they have become catalogs for the target audience.  I only spend my $$ for Surfers Journal and Surfers Path,  they at least work at doing it fairly and honestly …….

      well written Cori  and  other responders   …………

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for a well explained analysis of women in the surf industry.

    I sometimes wonder if women surfing (non competitively) get guys dropping in on them more often than men do? I know that I’m often the only woman out there surfing and I am very aware of this. It feels quite uncomfortable sometimes, especially when you can overhear the stupid infantile “locker room talk” of groups of young male surfers. I’ve come to the conclusion that at my home break I don’t give way or give a damn for these guys. It’s my wave and they’d better get out of my way!

    I would be very curious to hear your experiences of being a woman in the line up, how do the guys treat you?

    • Chris Grant, JettyGirl.com

      kiwi_surfer, I’m a guy so I can’t exactly answer that question but I do have a couple of thoughts on the subject. As a photographer and especially as one that shoots from the water, it almost seems as if people forget I’m there…like I’m just a seal swimming around. Perhaps they don’t notice me bobbing around in the lineup but many times considerably older guys will paddle by me basically tailing a bikini-clad girl, all the while telling each other, “what I’d do to her if given the chance” etc. It happens a LOT more than people realize.

      In regard to how women are treated in the lineup, I think it totally depends on the break and the surfers out that particular day. On one summer day last year at Lowers, there were probably 120 people in a lineup that included 117 guys and 3 girls. The girls, two of which were world class surfers, were continuously dropped in on during the session and I heard more than a few surfers complaining about “all the chicks in the water ruining the day,” seemingly ignorant of the fact that over 97% of the surfers in the lineup were dudes.

      On the other hand, I was shooting with Silvana Lima at Lowers last summer and not only did she get any wave she wanted, I saw several guys leave the lineup and sit on the beach and watch her surf. In my memory at least, that was the first time I’ve ever seen that happen…for guys or girls.

      Stoked you’re giving it a go. I hope the waves in NZ are treating you well!

  • CoriS

    You might be interested in this article regarding women in skateboarding.


  • Sheri

    Beautifully written Cori.

  • Obb

    One of the more well structured and articulate surf stories I’ve read. It would be nice if surfing could be focused solely on riding waves. To find a better balance I think surfing needs some really ugly people who rip (I’m half qualified).

  • Stu

    I never really understand these articles.  The reason the girls surf the crap waves and get paid nothing is because
    nobody cares about their surfing.  Their product simply isn’t in
    demand and they’re luck y they have an opportunity to make a living at it at all.  It has nothing to do with the man dictating their image – if they put on a show people wanted to see the money would follow.  But in truth, there’s nothing beautiful about a Courtney Conlogue hack or a Nikita Robb cutback.  What is beautiful, however, is a nice pic of Alana’s bottom turn.  Not only does basic economics answer the questions posed by Cori, but so does basic biology.  Sexuality, and the primal appreciation of the same, is vital to our survival as a species.  Why fight it?

    Related, isn’t it funny you never hear hot chicks talking about the mean male system holding them down?  Just sayin’.

  • Howard Phillips

    Allow me to turn down the white noise on my stereotype loudspeakers to say this:
    I would slather my tonsils with rhododendron fertilizer and lead-based house paint while scraping my Adam’s apple up and down the length of a garden shovel lined with rusty razor wire on the steps of Gloria Allred’s compound at high noon, if it meant the author of this profoundly ponderous piece would continue to alter my conscience by preying uponst my innermost aggravations and hostilities with her tenderly voiced truths.
    I would also like to state for the record that the person in this comments thread that used the term “books are like Kryptonite to a surfer” is a genius. If you don’t mind, I am going to borrow that phrase and using it elsewhere.

  • Nick Carroll

    Cori omits perhaps the most glaring modern example of gender bias in the current pro surfing arena: the sudden abandonment of women’s world tour events in Hawaii.

    Carissa Moore’s about to be the first Hawaiian female world champion in two generations, and she won’t surf a single meaningful heat in front of her home crowd. It’ll all be over by August.

    I know this isn’t quite what Cori’s on about, but … The biggest and most potent argument against sexism is that along with everything else, it’s just dumb. It defeats the self and it defeats entire societies. Right now the women’s tour is one of the best things — maybe the best thing — in the sport. They’ve kicked the top performance level up by at least 20% in a year and they’ve blown away a defending champ who 12 months ago was virtually unbeatable. And they’re entertaining crowds (well, maybe not Stu) in the process.

    To Cori’s list of whys, perhaps add: why is this not being acted on, and quickly?

    • Stu

      Answer is easy – it won’t make money.  Shockingly, Billaquik etc. are not just in it for fun – their stock holders actually expect them to make money.  Shelling out a bunch of money for really no return doesn’t  really fit the business plan.  It has nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with simple economics.  Roxy makes money selling tiny bikinis to 13-year-old girls who really don’t care that Carissa can do carving 360’s.   I’m not sure why any of this is so hard to understand. 

      Perhaps we should put this to the test – Cori and Nick can sponsor the girls’ tripple crown this year and then report back on their profits (or, more likely, losses).  Why do I think that’s not a deal they’d be interested in?

      • Nick Carroll

        Ha ha Stu do you really reckon any surf event sponsor actually MAKES MONEY from an event?

        If wishes were horses beggars would ride, buddy.

        A surf contest is only quantifiable by the amount and quality of attention paid to it. There’s only one event in the world — Bells Beach — where people actually pay to get in and watch, and the gate money wouldn’t even c0ver the winner’s check. All the rest is in “viewings” — the numbers of eyes on various types of screens over given periods of time.

        In other words, they don’t do it to make money; they do it to draw attention to themselves. And whatever youse all think of that Nike movie, I bet it’s the most downloaded surf video so far this year.

        • Stu

          I’m not sure we’re saying anything different.  Attention = product exposure = future sales, at least in the eyes of sponsors.  So if you have some folks watching on the beach and a few thousand watching the webcast and a few hundred thousand reading about it in the mags later, it’s apparently an investment billaquik are willing to make.  Cut that exposure to a few people on the beach, a few hundred watching on line and a few thousand reading about it and it’s no longer worth the hassle.  Hence, no sponsors for comps in Hawaii.

          As for the Nike movie, I haven’t seen it but I’m sure it’s good exposure for them.  And back to Cori’s original point, the only way to get male eyeballs on it is by mixing surfing with T & A.  Without the latter, it’s likely a very boring movie for most of the surfing public.

          • Jeff Byrnes

            Way to rock the ass hat. 

          • CoriS

            If we were to break the demographics into Viewers and Retail Consumers, I would have to agree that the majority of viewers at this point are male while the majority of Retail Consumers are women. The paradox lies in the fact that since the industry continually offers only an androcentric vision of surfing, it does not encourage the involvement of females. The question to the answer “Sex Sells” is “What? And to whom?” The obvious audience is male. The Retail Consumer buys what is available to them. They don’t know any different specifically because no options are given to them… no options have been allowed out of the gate. Also, Retail Consumers don’t know the truth about what is going on behind the closed doors of the endemic surfing culture. Given time, Retail Consumers will know the truth… just as they found out about the environmental aspects of business. How they (women) spend their money then, will certainly change. No parent I know wants their child in clothing/circumstances made by a company that promotes [X] behavior. Consumers need to know what they are buying. 

            I think where the discrepancy lies is in the thinking that what we view is a consequence of actual demand. What I tried to show in the “back to the ’90s” bit was that, given a choice, the market will grow in a different direction. The surf industry has proven, time and time again, that it is not open to more creative, diverse outgrowths until such a time as is proven by an outside movement. At the point when the venture proves financially viable, it moves in and assimilates the growth and then pats itself on the back for evolving said outgrowth single-handedly. But the assimilation effectively alters the spirit of the original movement. It is an illusion that the industry is the way it is because it has explored all its options and chosen the most financially sound path. The industry creates the image then successfully hides the fact that it does so, which is why so many people use the same argument time and time again: This is what makes the industry money. But there is a ceiling to who you can sell this image to. Once the industry finally comes to terms with the limits of the image it has created, it will have to change. Without a growth in the diversity of participation, surfing will hit a wall. Not, as is assumed, because people are limited in their access to waves, but because the image of surfing itself is limited. 

          • Nick Carroll

            Cori: can I bust it open a bit?

            Historically, the “surf industry” has been caught unawares by pretty much every significant shift in surf culture of the past 25 years.

            The industry completely missed:

            – the beginnings of snowboarding. No surf company engaged with this phenomenon, which arose unbidden in the late 1980s and blew away every other “boarding” form for nigh on six years, until it was well underway. By the mid-1990s, crossover board sports had become entrenched as a marketing form throughout the industry, but this belies the way in which it arose — from nowhere, propelled by people who were pretty much just psyched on what they were doing. It’s no accident by the way that women quickly and easily found a place in the snowboarding culture; it was so new that standard sexist tropes held no sway.

            – the beginnings of the girls surfing trend of the early to mid 1990s. Roxy was the only company to pre-date this shift, and the fact that it did was a total fluke. Roxy was originally conceived as a bikini company; it only changed gears following a sudden unexpected surge in purchases of size 28 boys’ boardshorts in the Hawaiian market, which proved to be mainly due to girls wanting surf gear that worked for them. The panic and uncertainly within the industry as the girls surfing boom erupted had to be seen to be believed — nobody had a clue what was happening, and all they could think of doing for the most part was attaching the word “girl” to their corporate brand. It was amazing, all these adult men in the industry marketing hot seats wrestling with something they’d never have imagined happening. Some of them took a decade to accept it. (I think they still don’t really get it by the way, despite the fairly crude power politics that were employed through the late 90s and early 2000s to try to re-brand women’s surfing as cool but safe.)

            – the return of big wave riding via tow-in, Laird etc. This more than demonstrates how change occurs beyond the reach or foresight of the surf industry, because it occurred in a zone you’d have thought was traditional to the bone: macho Men in huge dangerous surf. Yet tow surfing began, expanded and thrived with almost no encouragement or input from the surf industry; not until it’d been charging along for five years or more. It still remains largely uncorralled, despite the XXL thing etc – perhaps the big wave crew are just a bit too off the hook for a system whose primary motive is control.

            The rise of foreign and Third World surfing powers almost evaded US and Oz surf corporate eyes as well.

            The only mega movement to be instantly incorporated in the surf industry’s operations over the past quarter century has been the New School — Kelly, Shane, Rob, etc — and this was probably because the New School so closely resembled traditional surf culture shifts (ie the Free Ride generation, the rise of Tom Curren’s generation etc). The New School were radical surfers but completely comprehensible in traditional surf culture terms.

            I think it’s easy to overrate the importance of image in the potential expansion and growth of surfing. As the above shows us, image is a most unreliable indicator of future trends.

          • CoriS

            A welcome opening, Nick!

            What I am contemplating is less a functional or instrumental cultural shift and more an aesthetic image shift (the rise of non-mainland US/AUS surfers in the ranks and women in the 90s fits)… the aesthetic image of the culture (white, male, heterosexual…) which has persisted with few changes over time vs. functional or instrumental shifts in the culture (epoxy boards, stand-up, tow-in, snowboards…), of which there have been many. 

            Considering how Tiger Woods opened golf up to a new demographic (pre-scandal) or how Venus and Serena Williams have evolved women’s tennis gets closer to what I am imagining here. 

          • Stu

            but what you’re suggesting then isn’t that surfing is holding women back, but that surfing needs a figure to bust things wide open, no?  Golf didn’t invent Tiger and tennis didn’t invent the Williams sisters.  Their skills are what made them what they are, which brings me back to my original point – women’s surfing is generally boring to watch.  Maybe Carissa will be the one to change things, but I doubt it.  And money won’t follow until someone drags it out of the sponsors. 

            For what it’s worth, I’m not just doubting the economics of women’s pro surfing – I’m sure if someone actually looked at the numbers they’d find that the men’s system is a big loser too.  Aside from Dane, Slater and a few others, how many current pros do you think actually influence the buying patters of today’s kids?  Does anyone ever go get trunks because Bede wears them?  Or sunnies because Dane G wears them?  I’d be willing to bet the surf companies could stop sponsoring all but a few guys and see no difference in sales.  Like the AVP, pro surfing isn’t a business model that makes sense, and that goes for men and women alike.

          • CoriS

            (not that this changes your point, unfortunately)

          • Al Baydough

            The following may seem a bit disjointed but the point(s) should be evident enough.
            I have found one thing to be quite consistent with regards to trends in surfing: reaction.Though their will always be a strong traditional element in the general surfing community I have found that where something begins to receive resistance it ultimately gains acceptance. Surfers are among the most reactive personalities in a given popular subculture, primarily due to the magnitude of what is a fairly primitive and ignorant mindset. One of the greatest common denominators of the surfing zeitgeist is the romanticized visions that dance through our collective consciousness and subsequently dumb us down. We’ve all been victims and perpetrators. Some of us learn, others cling to “the dream,” no matter how much of a nightmare it may become. The hordes of parking lot burnouts and pier dwelling trolls are a solid testament to this fact (and if the industry weren’t so fat with $$$ now a lot of pros and former pros would be in that mix).
            It is no small wonder, then, that women/girls are advertised by the LCD of our sport (I cringe knowing that many will think I mean liquid crystal display) as nothing more than objects with passable abilities. Many male surfers have mentalities that are borderline Taliban with regards to a woman’s “place” in surfing (albeit with a completely polar taste in how to dress them).Nobody ever thought longboarding would make a comeback. But people started riding them. Then people stared hating on them. Then their was resistance. Nobody thought the retro movement would stick, especially when shapes that were proven to be dogs were still shown to be dogs, but stick it did. Again, people hate on them. The resistance remains. It also has strong allies in the guises of Machado, the Malloys, Reynolds, and many more. The resistance is here to stay.Emoes, punks, “art fags,” and members of the LGBT community (among many others) all surf now – and in growing numbers. Surfers are no longer the tidy and easily recognizable demographic they once were. I recall when Donovan and Todd Holland made it “cool” not to look like a typical surfer. In fact, it became a kind of contest to see just how much one could look NOT like a surfer. Reactive to the core.I could site numerous examples but the point is made: surfers tend (and trend) to be fairly reactionary; not exactly innovative (Greenoughs are the exception more than the rule) or thoughtful. Most surfers aren’t Dane: they aren’t likely to read Kundera unless forced to. In some ways, knowing this can help: find out what surfers are collectively hating on the most and you may be seeing the latest trend developing before your eyes (the fact that day-glo came back even a little bit proves this point, though it didn’t exactly kill it like it did in the 80’s – THANK GOD). Hating on PWCs blew them up; their increased acceptance has resulted in their being increasingly resisted. SUPs seem to be following a similar trend.Fashion is a bit tougher to track in this regard. But not by much. There will always be room for beach bunny bimbos. But there should also be room for women to be portrayed as the capable and intelligent athletes that they have the promise of being.However, that said, it is ultimately up to the women to decide how they are promoted and perceived. If your ass is hotter than any turn you can throw down… well, do as you will but don’t work at Hooters if you hate being reduced to your chest size and having your ass covered in black and blue spots at the end of every shift. On a similar note, ASP commentators really need to start reading headier material and investing in reference books – like dictionaries and thesauri. PLEASE.Industry stability in the future will depend on the ability of those involved to understand the broadening dynamic. There will always be the mindless masses that gobble up saccharine Hollywood tripe. bu their is always resistance to this as well. Awareness is radial, not linear.

          • bozo the clown

            “The rise of foreign and Third World surfing powers almost evaded US and Oz surf corporate eyes as well.”
            This is contrary to my experience of living in East Asia for 20 years.
            China ,Hainan ,Taiwan – they are all suffering for the rush to commercialise the image of surfers into clothes/style exemplars for the rising numbers of middle class youth.
            Maybe Nick wasn’t there in the early 90’s when the waves were empty?
            Fast forward 5 years and the effort was in full swing , first through licenced importers then when they got too big for themselves they lost their licences and the majors moved in.
            Complete beginner surfers  duped into suffering through polluted waters in absolutely crap surf on the latest Channel Island model with hundreds spent on clothes , sunglasses and funky shoes.
            Don’t kid yourself about the surf clothing industry- they are sharp as tacks when an opportunity arises they promote the hell out of the surfers/skaters/snowboarders  based on physical attractiveness.
            The whole sport’s image has gone beyond parody really.
            The girls are just the latest victims.

          • Nick Carroll

            Well I did say “almost” evaded.

          • Dave Mailman

            Two questions, Nick and Cori: Do you think the Industry is going to “miss” the arrival of Nike (not just 6.0) in surfing too? Will Nike (a true mainstream brand) really be able to bring surfing to the masses (and possibly democratise the sport), or is Nike just using surfing to exploit another niche that that don’t already “own”?

          • Nick Carroll

            Nay Dave I do not! But then again I don’t think it represents a significant shift in surf culture either. Nike has a bit of a gap right now as a result of recent shifts in surf culture — it’s not a cause of those shifts.

            Surfing’s already been brought to the masses, that’s partly why they’ve got a shot at it now. I am sure Nike is far too subtle a company to call it “exploiting”.

        • Al Baydough

          I downloaded it, watched it once, and have already relegated it to the trash bin.

          The industry needs a women’s equivalent to Margo’s Wanderjar. Now THAT’S a good format for a surf vid.Or how about a women’s version of 3 Degrees?
          Or Momentum?
          The talent is finally here. How about the vision to accompany it?

        • Dave Mailman

          Nick, you hit it on the head about the women’s events in Hawaii. It’s all about the “viewings”, and you can’t run women’s events at the same time as the men’s events or you will get no “viewings”. That’s most likely why Billabong canned the women’s final at Honolua bay, and continues to sponsor the men’s final at Pipe. Pipe takes all the “viewings” and all the rest of the coverage away away from Honolua bay, so from a stockholder’s standpoint it’s a waste of time to run the women’s event. However, finishing the tour in mid-summer SoCal with hundreds of thousands of butts on the beach (i.e. guaranteed “viewings”) makes perfect financial sense.

  • Christian

    Great article and discussion. As long as surfing is viewed as a product, it will suffer.

  • John Ross

    I don’t mean to come off as rude or spiteful, but this article comes off as mildly bitter. The reason girls have less press then men is easy. Ready?  There is a disproportionate amount of women surfers to men. Less women pros = Less coverage.

    Oh and um, you might wanna check out the latest COVER of Transworld Surf (august). Yeah that’s Malia Manuel all right. I think thats the second female to grace a cover in less than a 1 calendar year.

    I agree with whoever said it below, that you could have used a better image than Alanas backside to supplement your article. That photo alone of a young, attractive, floursihing female profesional makes you the author seem jealous, washed up, old and bitter.

    Carissa Moore is going to win the title. And she’s athletcially built. Far FAR from anorexic. Oh and shes all over the nike ad’s. What was your arguement again?

  • Christian

    Have you read that issue of transworld? One of the main articles is titled “Is it hard to surf with boobs?” (with the O’s illustrated with nipples). Past magazines that have featured women on the cover spend more time patting themselves on the back for doing so rather than coming up with actual content.  These magazines have just been disappointments. I hope to see the day when a woman gets the cover and we can read about that particular session or surfer (like we would with any other cover) and go on with life.

    Unfortunately, the less pros = less coverage = less money is going to be a repetitive cycle. I don’t know if the chicken or the egg came first, but why would one go into a “profession” that has fewer contests and less money opportunities?

    • Stu

      because it beats waiting tables?  Er, no, apparently it doesn’t.

    • Chris Cote

      Apparently it’s not that hard to surf with boobs. It’s the first time anyone has ever asked or answered that question. Oh, and our second year running with a female on the cover. pretty awesome of us. 

    • Stu

      and now that I think about it, isn’t Cori being a bit hypocritical here?  I mean, is there a bigger stereotype in surfing than the construction worker/bar tender/waiter (or in this case, waitress) who has no real goal but to surf?  Wouldn’t Cori’s message be far more persuasive if she were a lawyer, or a doctor, or an engineer, or a teacher (or, or, or…).   Why question stereotyping in one area just to perpetuate it in the next?

  • Sadly, Nike 6.o ‘s Leave a Message: A Women’s Surf Film proves your point.

  • Jeff Byrnes

    The only way the women can sell this is to smarten up, get educated, and take control.

    And don’t listen to cynical f-wits like Stu, who truly deserves the name “Exaybachay.”You’re lame, “dude.”To the women I’d say to pay more attention to other successful women’s sports and athletes, listen to how they present themselves and promote their respective sports, look at the paths they took to get their, and emulate. There is a place for women’s surfing and there is a better way to promote it and garner respect. The talent is truly there. The mind must follow.

  • Stu

    when’s the next “hottest chicks in surfing” list coming out Cote?

  • CoriS

    Unfortunately, Stu, your analysis lacks weight given the fact that I do have “real” goals outside of surfing, but I also feel that impacting my sport given what I have learned is an important way I can give back (along with working with non-profit organizations, surfing youth, etc.). Going to school has always been high on my list of priorities and is where I spend most of my time when I am not competing. When I coach young girls, one of the first things I encourage them to do is to stay in school… a much easier goal to accomplish these days given the fact that many classes can be taken online.

    • Stu

      what?  Graduating from high school and going to college isn’t hard.  In fact, it’s quite easy.  Always has been and always will be, particularly for the suburban white kids who make up the huge majority of our sport.  No matter how lofty the goals or large the vocabulary, you’re really not a whole lot different than the stereotypical drop-out surfer.  I do think you serve as a great role model though – I’d point to you as a “how not to” to my own daughters.

      • CoriS

        How does working while I put myself through school fit into this “drop-out surfer” stereotype again? I might move slower through semesters than those who have their schooling paid for and who have not chosen to compete globally, but assuming that I have “dropped-out” is a far cry from the truth.

        • Stu

          sorry, i got sidetracked here.  Surfers not completing their education to me is far more harmful than girls in bikinis.

        • Stu

          If you were 19, I’d agree.

  • CoriS

    I can’t say that I have enjoyed watching sociologists use TWS, year after year, as the paramount example of the persisting double standard in surfing, Chris.

  • Stu

    to recap, here’s what I’ve learned from Cori’s piece:

    surf industry = evil misogynists
    cute girls who currently surf for a living = mindless drones
    men who enjoy looking at girls surfing in bikinis = sexist pigs

    I love America in the age of PC.

    • GetOverIt

      Notice how the only women bitching about stuff like this are
      the washed-up and bitter?

      You know you’re not going to change anything, right? Surfing
      is, and will always be, a male-dominated sport. It’s sheer numbers. It’s not a
      sexism thing; it’s simply that there are more men in the water than women. And
      there always will be. Get over it. Why waste your life bitching about something
      you will never change? So you wanted to have a long, fruitful career as a pro
      surfer and didn’t have what it takes to do that. Move on. It’s like really
      wanting to fit into a pair of shoes that don’t fit, and instead of just going
      out and getting a new pair you spend the rest of your life cursing those shoes
      (and the person who makes them, and the other girls who fit into them) over and
      over and over. The surf industry isn’t causing eating disorders and violence
      any more than those shoes are causing depression for the person with big feet. Enjoy
      surfing, don’t involve yourself with the surf industry, and stop whining. Your
      bitching will change nothing. Ever.  

      My recommendation to young female surfers with dreams of
      making it as a pro surfer: Accept that the surf industry is driven by profits
      and that surfing has far more men in it that women. Accept that there will
      always be more men in the water, more men making decisions, and more men with
      the power to ultimately decide what is hot. Surf brands enlist surfers on their
      team as marketing tools, and those tools must attract people to the brand. It’s
      that simple. If you don’t have what it takes, don’t change yourself, don’t
      spend your life crying about it, simply take another path. You can still surf
      and be successful in the surf industry if you want to. And don’t wait—or you
      might end up waiting tables and whining on vapid websites like this one at 35.

      (By the way, I am a female surfer.)

      • CoriS

        “…those tools must attract people to the brand. It’s
        that simple.” 
        This one’s for you, darling. Give my best to your bosses and peers at “authentic” [Brand X]:


        (P.S. Please, stop chopping the heads off of your models.)

      • Nicole Grodesky

        It’s really sad that you have internalized the sexist attitudes of male chauvinism. It’s not about “whining” it’s about equal rights. It’s not “bitching,” it’s about cultivating opportunity for the next generation. It’s about reversing the institutionalization of sexism and penetrating the final frontier for women over all which is: sport.  You may remember a time when woman were not allowed to participate in sport. Women were once told that they couldn’t run because their ovaries would fall out. It’s myths like those that have been used to control women. Can you think of other myths? 

         It was only until 30 years ago( Title IX) that woman were given opportunity to fund their college tuition by playing sports. Think of all the brave women that fought for their daughters to receive an education through sport, were they “bitching” were they “whining?” Maybe, but they won and because of that you can thank them for all the bitching and whining. 

        What Corey is trying to point out is that there is a social responsibility here and we as a surfing community need to recognize when things don’t seem right. What kind of message do the surf companies send? Is the image of female surfers portrayed in the surfing media a positive one to both young men and women? I would say it’s mixed. On one page you have a shot of a woman surfing strong and on the next you find a Reef ad ( and we all know what that looks like).  I think what Corey is saying is that “Not only do men exert power over women as a group, but the historically derived definitions of masculinity and femininity reproduce those power relations.” (Kimmel 1986, 520-521)

        Further, your philosophy is consistent with the marginalization of women in sport and ensuring that the female athlete does not become a major threat to the hegemonic ideology of male athleticism, strength, and power. 

        Sad. Really sad. 

  • Stu

    ah, nothing like a man telling women what to do.  

  • CoriS

    John, you know that bit I posted: “Why do they feel they have to surf in a bathing suit as a surfer, adding to still existent body image issues?” You might be interested to follow the link… 

    “-For some reason, for as long as I can remember, I associated weight and being skinny with being beautiful.” -Carissa Moore

    Ms. Moore has body image issues. Stated fact. That she states that she is being vulnerable about her issues is indeed courageous… however, she does not address how she perceives the image she feels she needs to attain/maintain, instead, she commits herself to altering her image to better fit the image she feels she needs to maintain. 

    • Blasphemy Rottmouth

      I believe all women should aspire to the true steotypical female athelete: professional softball players.

      • CoriS

        There is no stereotypical female athlete… there is only the athlete as perceived through the male gaze. That is: if she tries to fit into the male understanding of “athletic” she will be ridiculed as “too masculine”. If she tries to fit into a more feminine understanding of “athletic” she will be devalued as not “athletic like a guy” enough. 

        • Blasphemy Rottmouth

          I can tell you haven’t finished school yet. Carry on…

        • Stu

          here’s where you go astray, Cori.  There is, absolutely, a female athlete.  Ask the millions of girls who loved Mia Hamm.  Or Maria Sharipova.  Or Natalie Coughlin, or the Williams sisters, or Misty May and Kerri Walsh,or even some of those huge basketball players.  Is your concern that girls will grow up wanting to be athletic AND sexy?  I simply don’t see a problem with that. In fact, I hope my girls strive for both as they mature.

    • Stu

      here’s a little secret – fat is not pretty.  Not in men and not in women.  Ms. Moore SHOULD worry about her weight, as we all should.  As we get fatter as a nation, it’s somehow become a sin to recognize that skinny is in fact sexy.  Instead, we’re pushing for bigger seats on airplanes so fatsos can be more comfortable.

  • CoriS
  • Jimmy Dell

    Great article( and subsequent discussion) Cori.
    Also, with a bit of cunning semi-quantitative and qualitative statistics, based on key words and phrases, this page could be the kernel to a worthy honors paper.

  • John Ross

    Indeed courageous we are in complete agreement on that.
    I just have to it out there that body image issues are not exclsuive to the female gender. Many top professionals struggle to maintain a balanced weight. Dane Renyonlds, Sterling Spencer (who got called out in print for his gut), the late Andy Irons… all have seen an expanding and contracting waist line and im sure feel the pressure for catalog shoots ect.

    I struggled with this from Carrissas heartfelt confession…
    ” I was given this really horrible, not fun diet of strict protein water, salad, plain oatmeal, and lean meat. It lasted for about a day and a half before I indulged in a tub of frozen yogurt. I was also told to do cardio for at least 40 minutes everyday and I hate hate hate cardio.”

    My response is one im sure you will confuse with malice, but here we go. You know what you’re a professional athelete. Professional athletes need to maintain their bodies as a tool to their trade. You don’t want to work out or eat properly to maintain peak physical condition? Well that’s tough, and go be a teacher.

  • Anonymous

    If women got
    anywhere near the attention that they should, the press would be accursed of exploiting

  • Dave Mailman

    Just finished watching the CNN intro for Wimbledon and the women’s competition. Some of the ladies are good looking, but none of them HOT like some people portray Laura Enever or Alana Blanchard to be. FACT OF THE MATTER is, the more people participate (or are interested) in the sport, the less looks matter. Very few members of the general public could give a rats ass about women’s surfing (their loss), but that means that the brands who invest in it have to sell it however they can. So, if the “less than beautiful” girls don’t rip on a surfboard, they should pick up a tennis racket or golf club instead. Life sucks sometimes, but it’s the one we’re stuck with, so I guess we’ve got to live with it. Hats off to ‘ugly’ women like Cori, who try to change the status quo, but most people don’t have the gumption to fight that up-hill battle. You go right on goin’ girl!

  • Nicole Grodesky

    Your comment is so wrong and so messed up on so many levels. If you knew you would bury your head in the sand. I mean really? 

    If you were given a choice would you rather be a female athlete or a male one? What if you didn’t have a choice. Imagine you are a talented female athlete, would your position be the same? 

  • Pingback: Womentum: The Women's Movement (in Context) | TheInertia.com()

Join The Inertia Family 

Only the best. We promise.