I can hear your eyes rolling, but that thinly-plotted movie, along with Step Into Liquid, got me to the beach and signed up for my first surf lesson on an old ten-foot foam board. Seeing women surf, and surf well, inspired me to try. Would it have mattered if I’d known that women did not actually compete at Pipeline, as depicted in Blue Crush, until three years after the film’s release? I doubt it. From the moment I stood up on that water-logged log, I was hooked. If those girls in the movies could rip, maybe I could too, one day.
It’s been over ten years since I rode that knee-high wave, and I’ve just stepped down to a 5’4” shortboard. I’m so close to ripping I can almost taste it. For another dose of inspiration, I drove up to Oceanside to watch the best of a field of about 100 female surfers tear it up on mediocre waves at the Ford Supergirl Pro. One might bemoan the contest’s excessive use of pink on its website, or that the winner is made to don a pink Supergirl cape, but there is no denying that it is quite refreshing to have a contest that shines a spotlight on the best talent in women’s surfing today – not as a sideshow to a men’s event, but as a three day main event itself.
I arrived just in time to watch Paige Hareb ride from the quarterfinals through to the final with Malia Manuel. Last year, Paige was the only goofyfoot to make the top ten in the world rankings. Since that’s my stance too, seeing her surf provides both inspiration and education. When Paige left the water after winning a heat, I felt a bit like a silly fan girl waiting on the beach in the t-shirt I got as a reward for contributing to the crowdfunding she used to help finance her tour this year. It reads “Winners never quit. Quitters never win.” Still, I figured she’d appreciate the support so far from home. And I wasn’t the only fan. Little girls darted around her in the sand, smiling and awed, before she was corralled for an interview.
The scene was the same for the other competitors; and everywhere there were aspiring surfer girls seeing what was possible as their role models made the most of the summer waves on offer. It wasn’t just the great maneuvers they landed, but also the ones they didn’t, that made an impression. Even the best fall sometimes, but they still paddle into the next wave and try again.
Chris Grant of online women’s surf magazine Jetty Girl captured the spirit of the event: “Watching hundreds of young girls cautiously approach their favorite pro surfers only to be welcomed with graciousness, smiles and thoughtful words was not only heart-warming, but it was extremely inspirational as well. The ear-to-ear smiles, the sparkling eyes of youth, and the skips down the beach clutching a newly autographed hat or piece of paper would have warmed the heart of even the most grumpy… [T]he surfers didn’t only showcase the current state of women’s high performance surfing, they also inspired an entire generation of girl groms who no doubt are dreaming of riding waves of their own one day soon.”
Just as they inspired this older surfer girl. Thank you, ladies!