The Inertia Founder
Out In The Lineup plays a significant role in killing homosexuality in surfing.  Photo: Out In The Lineup

Out In The Lineup plays a significant role in killing homophobia in surfing. Photo: Out In The Lineup


The Inertia

Almost four years ago, an article from a gay surfer named Thomas arrived in my inbox. The piece detailed his experience navigating the nuanced and often-hypocritical norms of surf culture as a homosexual man. His experience was so lopsided – weighted by generally homophobic behavior – that he was honestly unsure if any other gay surfers existed in the world. His doubt inspired him to build a website, gaysurfers.net, and, sure enough, he found plenty of gay surfers. Thousands, actually. That should come as no surprise. Gallup estimates that between 10% – 20% of America’s population is gay. Gallup also acknowledges how difficult that data is to ascertain, considering, as they put it: “Many people have trouble admitting their homosexuality to themselves, much less to a researcher.”

But that’s besides the point. When I first heard from Thomas, I was excited about the opportunity for The Inertia to provide a platform – one that might play a role, however small, in catalyzing a constructive discussion that might lead to social change in surfing, a culture I care deeply about. Historically, whether out of fear, discomfort, or sheer ignorance, surfing had avoided addressing progressive social issues. But with his courageous note, a dialog could begin. To my knowledge, homosexuality had never been breached in surf media aside from a rather groundbreaking article by Fred Pawle about Matt Branson in Stab Magazine several years ago.

I was also scared. I distinctly remember cautioning him that his innocuous note could spawn ugly, homophobic blowback that might endanger him. At the time, words like “fag” and general homophobic banter and behavior were a lot more common, and I was spooked. Rather than using his full name, he signed his post Thomas C. He remains the only contributor approved to use an abbreviation of his/her full name on The Inertia.

Times have changed.

Today, Thomas Castets is an award-winning filmmaker. He recently won Best Action Sports Film at the Newport Beach Film Festival for producing Out In the Lineup, a documentary that examines homosexuality in surfing and  causes the viewer to ask a simple question:

Out In The Lineup makes a case that it’s very much an issue. And it’s not as obvious as surfers maliciously spraying homophobic slurs across lineups around the world. Non-acceptance isn’t always so ostentatious. It can be subtle. A coercive web. And with cautious optimism the film asserts that we are behind the times.

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  • JeffreyBHall

    Thanks Zach. Great article, great film. And another reason why Ace is probably the smartest and most evolved surfer on the tour. I’ve witnessed (and confronted) homophobic comments from one of the younger surf photographers featured frequently on this site, hopefully he reads this article and realizes his thinking is part of the past and that surfing is leaving his sort of thinking behind.

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  • JeffreyBHall

    So, let’s be precise JD, exactly how many American kids need to die from suicide before you would support any effort to keep them alive? Please, give me a number.

    “Bigotry of any kind is wrong but the move to make such a small amount of any sexual preference as normal is also incorrect.” So let me try to get this straight (pun intended), bigotry is OK if it only affects a small minority? Can I also assume that your sexual behavior is “normal” and everyone else whose sexual preferences are different than yours are not “normal”?

    “Please encourage everyone to focus on real issues that matter to all humans”…and by “all humans” I assume that means YOU. Perhaps The Inertia shouldn’t focus on surfing since all humans don’t surf? I bet if you were the family member of a young surfer who just took his or her own life simply because he just realized that he’s gay, you might feel differently about which “issues matter”.

    According to http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/facts-about-suicide:

    Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.

    Gay youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times
    more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.

    Suicide attempts by gay youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times
    more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires
    treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight (or as you call them JD, “normal”) peers.

    Gay youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as
    likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low
    levels of family rejection.

    1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year.

    Each episode of gay victimization, such as physical or verbal
    harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior
    by 2.5 times on average.

  • Jeff Byrnes

    Bravo, Zach.

    Writing and publishing this takes more balls than hucking yourself over the ledge of a proper 8 on a crossed up swell at Pipe with Kala on the shoulder throwing you stink eye.

    All you have to do is watch Shelter (Taylor Steele’s and the Malloys’ ode to a surfing utopia sausage fest) and One California Day to realize that surfers truly are a bunch of “latent homosexuals” who can’t stop thinking of dudes on waves.

    The only place in nature where homophobia exists is in humans. Like most hateful nonsense in our species it’s a bogus claim and glaring example of the raging insecurities that plague us – and our lineups. Surfing is about the most homophobic sport going and if the walls can be tumbled here they can likely be tumbled anywhere.

    The real hypocrisy is evident in the fact that hetero male surfers have no measurable problem with the long standing presence of lesbians in the surfing community, both locally and on the world stage. Most male surfers I know (myself included) have sexual fantasies involving bisexual women. Some of these men have lived out the fantasy, resulting in differing thoughts and feelings afterwards. Some have even pressured and/or coerced women into providing this fantasy. But gay men get handed all the persecution? Lame.

    As a musician and visual artist I have often stepped away from surfing to take a break from the myopia that plagues and distorts the views and attitudes of the cult that is the dominant surfing culture; a cult of willful ignorance and prejudice that does nothing but damage to surfing and surfers of all backgrounds.

    I can’t claim sainthood myself in this regard, I held my own socially constructed and imposed prejudices against homosexuals when I was younger, even physically threatening a few gay men on various occasions. Fortunately, I have always been a skeptical and questioning person and experience taught me that homosexuals (and the LGBTQ community in general) are no more or less “immoral” or “deviant” than any other segment of the population. I have learned to judge by content of character. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Anyone using The Bible (or Koran) as a justification hasn’t a leg to stand on. The passages/chapters/books that condemn this behavior command that people be stoned to death for mixing fabrics, working on the sabbath, and eating shellfish – among other absurdities that no one in their right minds would act on. And let’s not forget that these same books of “God’s laws” (please) state that you can sell your daughters into sexual bondage. Oh, and Abraham and Sarah had the same father so get over your self-righteous selves and grow a brain, a heart, and some humanity. I dare ya’.

    Kudos to Branson, Pawle, Castets, Wakefield, and all the gay surfers stepping out of the closet – and getting blown out of the barrel. Few things in life are more difficult than being yourself, especially in the surfing world (despite claims).

    Good stuff, Zach. That’s some brass.

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