Due to an ongoing shoulder injury, I have been prescribed some much-needed bed rest and some fabulously powerful pills. With lots of spare time available and a lack of interest in board games, I started to over-think random stuff, as I always tend to do when I am restricted from any physical activity. So I started spending some rather extensive time on the world wide web. (Google is the most loyal companion, always by my side. No matter what time of day it is, if the surf’s good or bad, Google is always there for me, delivering the goods.)
Anyways, one of my latest Google search escapades was the phrase: “women & surfing.”
Most of the articles for female surfers are written, quite obviously, by females. I started scrolling down and reading article after article, watching videos, pictures, cruising through online female surf shops…and all of the sudden I started to get a huge burning feeling inside my stomach. It was anxiety.
Probably 75 percent of the articles I found were about how and what “real” women surfers should be surfing, what female surfing should look like – instead of the image that the over-sexualized surf industry tries to force upon us, and the negative impact that will have on groms and how wrong it is not to embrace all kinds of female bodies. Some articles, I must say, have a rather aggro undertone and are filled with frustrated and confused estrogen (I am a woman, I know the signs of imbalanced hormones.)
What these female soul surfers don’t realize is that they are doing exactly what they despise: Imposing an image of what “real female surfers” must look like.
Here are some rules I observed from reading the digital bible that my Google search of “women & surfing” yielded:
– Shortboards are for adolescent boys.
– Airs are a definite no-go, cause where is the flow in that?
– Cheeky coverage bikini bottoms are for sluts, and sluts don’t know how to surf.
– Despise all major surf brands. They will turn you into a slut.
– WSL competition is for posers, groupies, and sluts.
– Boycott any rule forced upon us by the surf industry. (Did they really set rules, though?)
It seems like the only way to be a REAL woman in the water is to ladyslide on a log and dance on waist-high Sri Lankan lefts and rights wearing a comfortable lycra bodysuit made by real surfers for real surfers. So according to many of these lady writers, if you do all of the above, you will reconnect with the real woman inside of you and find your space in this universe that we share with dolphins, dogs, and Ganesha.
Before reading these words of wisdom, I started to get confused, because I never really felt like I was supposed to surf or look a certain way to be seen as a “woman” surfer. And I definitely don’t look like their vision of a female surfer.
I never thought I HAD to shortboard. I just like it better. It suits my personality. I rode all kinds of boards and decided I like the shorty the best. Sorry!
I also wear cheeky coverage bikini bottoms. Basically, because I don’t like to have a white gigantic full harvest moon shining from my behind when it’s dark. And I am skinny. If I wear big clothes, it makes me look skinnier. So I wear what suits me best. Sorry!
I also happen to really enjoy watching WSL surf comps, even when the conditions are shitty. I get overly excited. I have seen myself almost get fired over watching WSL contests instead of attending to clients. I also love football games (read: soccer), Roland Garros, and the Olympics. I love competition and everything that comes with it: the nervous warm-ups, the emotional wins dedicated to lost and loved ones, the frustrating losses, the blaming the judges, I love it all…It ignites my fire. It’s the way I was born. Sorry!
Maybe it is because I don’t have any body issues. (Although I have wished for bigger boobs, I kind of really love my precious mandarines). Maybe it is all because I am more of a tomboy, and I don’t see the harm in being a bit less Leah Dawson and a bit more Laura Enever. But maybe, just maybe, the real issue is the one that women have with themselves.
You see, I don’t remember anyone telling me I had to be sexy to be a real surfer. I don’t remember anyone telling me I had to be a pro to be a real surfer. Yeah sure, there are more posters and advertisements of sexy and beautiful surfers, but I think that is because we just like to look at beautiful things. Everyone does, so do you! The human eye is drawn to symmetry, as unfair as that may be. It’s true that beauty might be different to everyone, but still…
Yet nowadays there are a lot of women stating what real female surfing should be like.
Women are now creating what they hated the most to begin with: an industry, a rulebook, an image of what a woman should look like.
Maybe all these articles were written by bedbound over-thinking females like me, and things just got out of hand. But seriously, let’s just stop the aggro attitude and do whatever you want and let others do whatever they want to do.
If you want to longboard, then longboard. If you want shortboard, then go shortboard. If you want to cover your body, then cover it. If you want to expose it, then go ahead. It’s your body, after all. Even if you decide to grow your armpit hair, which seems very popular these days, the decision is all yours.
You are free to do and think as you please, but remember, so are others.
So stop judging. (I am very aware that I am judging you right now as well. The irony!). It’s not necessarily the men or the industry that label us, it’s us too. So just get over it. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and go surf.
Sri Lanka or Indo, it’s all good.
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed by community contributors are their own.