Women everywhere struggle for equality. We are seeking out equal pay for equal work. We are striving to be viewed as a person rather than an object. And we look for support for victims of sexual assault, rather than blame. All this to name a few (quite major) concerns. Aside from these social necessities, women need equality in sports.
As a female surfer, I grew up with more concerns about my gender than I ever should have had to experience. I was not welcomed in the lineup at many beaches because I am a girl. I was spoken to harshly and the men at the beach regularly doubted my ability, frequently dropping in on my waves. I always felt like I didn’t matter, like I was stepping into their arena and the men didn’t want me there. As I kept surfing through adolescence, I developed body image insecurities. The surf industry’s portrayal of women is most often painting a picture of the tanned, flawless beauty sporting small bikini tops and bottoms that are pretty difficult to keep on while surfing, and that image impacted me heavily and contributed to many of my insecurities. Nevertheless, I continued to surf. But I understand that us women have a long road ahead to fight for equality.
A big uproar taking place in the surf community now is the recent submission of female big wave surf contests. The first of these events took place just this year and the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing urged the California Coastal Commission to ensure women be allowed their own contest in the coming season. People continue to argue about whether or not this truly is a step up for women’s rights in surfing, and I am gladly joining the debate. However, the facts are here and concrete truths about these events exist: the Titans of Mavericks contest is only including women because the event coordinators have been forced to do so. And there are plenty of opinionated blog and article entries about why women should or should not be included in these events to begin with. I don’t want to continue that argument, as I believe that if a woman is capable and willing to ride 20 foot waves, she should have every right to demonstrate that. But I do want to contribute to moving forward from here. I want to encourage more growth of women rights in the surf industry and help to create a more accepting atmosphere in the ocean.
Especially in the wake of the recent presidential election of Donald Trump, a man who refers to women as objects that are his for the taking, I want to see the surf industry demonstrate the ideology that women are valuable and worthy. I don’t want the next trailer for a women’s contest to showcase footage of girls in small bikinis, simply walking down the beach; I want to see them shredding. I want to hear the word beauty as a way to glorify a woman’s power and control while surfing, not ads with that familiar shot from behind a women paddling out to the lineup. Female surfers are strong warriors, just like the men, and I would like to see the surf culture value their strength before co-opting their sexuality.
I know I don’t have a concrete, simple solution to bring equality into surfing. There is no one answer that will relieve the ocean of the misogyny that people bring into it, but I would like to hear opinions for potential action to promote equality in the surf industry.