A little over a week ago, 19-year-old Ellie-Jean Coffey (two time Australian national champion and 2012 World Junior runner up) appeared on the Australian morning show Sunrise. The female news anchor introduced her segment on the Aussie phenom with the phrase: “She’s putting sex into surfing, and it’s making waves.”
With over 240k followers on Instagram, Ellie-Jean is certifiably instafamous. And why wouldn’t she be? She has the look, the sponsors, and the surfing skills to make a splash in a business that is run by brands that bank off of sun-kissed skin. Her Instagram @elliejeancoffey is filled with tanned and toned selfies, lifestyle photos, and surfing shots. When she is not traveling the world on exotic photo shoots for the latest Billabong bikini line or seeking out some of the best waves on earth, she is at home soaking up the sun on Australia’s Gold Coast.
We all know that sex sells (whether or not some people acknowledge that fact is a different story). This rings especially true in an industry in which deeply tanned, chiseled physiques are literally idolized. Their gigantic half naked bodies line the windows of almost every surf shop on earth. Professional surfers are some of the healthiest (looking) athletes in the world and sometimes having the look will get you further than having the skills. But according to Ellie-Jean, the truly successful female surfers are able to bridge their sex appeal and their success in the water. “Being sexy and being competitive go together,” she said. “My approach on social media has helped be to build a profile and attract sponsorship. Sponsors want the whole package.”
And Ellie-Jean is right. The big surfing labels see more potential in female surfers with sex appeal than chicks that just charge. At the end of the day, it all comes down to who is the most marketable and who is going to sell the most clothing for said company. It’s sad, but it is a fact. Even 5-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore, one of the most respected women in the surf industry, doesn’t hold back from using her sex appeal to market herself and her sponsor Roxy.
Showing off skin and surfing go hand in hand, particularly if you are lucky enough to live in a region with warm water. It wasn’t too long ago that Kelly Slater was better known—at least by mainstream America—for his shirtless cameos on the show Baywatch than for his surfing abilities. Don’t remember? Check out this ridiculous 90s esq clip of Slater playing the role of Jimmy Slade, and it would appear the character doesn’t even know what a shirt would look like.
But the fact of the matter is that as female surfing is finally starting to catch up to its male counterpart (at least in terms of number of ASP events), social media is a quick and easy way to build a brand image and followers. There is a reason Alana Blanchard has over 800k followers on Instagram. Let me assure you it isn’t because of her surfing abilities, but rather her sexual prowess.
At the end of the day, a surfer’s ability in the water should speak louder than what they look like topless. But hey, surfing and sex appeal go hand in hand. And I’m sure there are a lot of us out here that don’t mind scrolling through our Instragram feed and seeing a few half naked, good looking people stoked on their latest surfing conquest.