Editor’s Note: On April 30, 2014, “Out in the Lineup” will show at the Newport Beach Film Festival at 8pm. Buy your ticket here.
For the last two years, I have been working on a feature documentary uncovering the taboo of homosexuality in surfing. This month, we’re conducting the final round of fundraising to complete the project.
Some of you may get it already, and I invite you to check our project. But many others are thinking, “What does homosexuality have anything to do with surfing! Who cares if you are gay? The line-up is about catching waves. We don’t care who you are sleeping with.”
To the second group of readers, I hear you. And I understand where you are coming from. But if you keep reading this story, you might understand where I am coming from, and why this film is important.
For a long time, I made sure I kept my secret away from the rest of the world. I was protecting myself. The last thing I wanted was to be outed in the line-up and be referred to as the “gay surfer.” Being gay is only one part of who I am and I did not want to be labeled. In 2010, when I was asked if I wanted to write an article for The Inertia, I refused to sign it with my real name. A lot has changed in three years. Today I come back writing under my real name and with the confidence to present my real self. This is what has happened.
I grew up in France and moved to Australia when I was 18 years old. I never had many gay friends and did not intend to hang out with just gay people.
The same way I was running away from the other French expats in Australia, I did not want to get stuck in a community. I was surfing a lot, but I realized I was surfing alone more often than not, as my friends all started to get married and have babies. I had no one to talk to about where I was in my life, and I always felt it would be nice to know someone who had gone through the same path–even if it was meeting just one other gay surfer.
In 2010, I started a blog called www.gaysurfers.net. Within a week, about 300 people signed up from all around the world–Japan, California, France, South Africa, and so on. And for the first time, I started relating to people who had been on a similar path. We talked about our surf spots, our boards, our surf trips and what it was like being the only gay surfer in our small towns or cities. It was amazing, and I received many thank you letters. Men and women were stoked they had found the site and suddenly we were not alone anymore.
It did not turn into a gay dating site. Instead, it became a tool to organize surf sessions, surf trips and chat with other gay surfers. The following year, I went on a ’round-the-world trip and visited the most active communities on the website in San Diego, LA, Hawaii, Indonesia and France and met some of the members in person. Most of them were like me–they did not fit in with the gay scene; they preferred outdoor activities, and they had the same fear to be outed and ostracized if other surfers found out that they were gay. We all heard gay slurs around us. In surfing, it is quite accepted to call someone “gay” if they miss a wave or do anything clumsy.
For those of you who think that “things have changed and homophobia is not a problem anymore,” well, you just need to read the comments below the latest articles about the film in SURFER MAGAZINE (+ Facebook) or SURFING MAGAZINE or SWELLNET to see that being gay is still something that surfers make fun of.
I strongly believe that if homosexuality were more visible, it wouldn’t be cool to make fun of it. It would become an undeniable part of our society and then, perhaps, gay and lesbian surfers would not fear being outed. All the gay surfers I met on that trip were amazing. I thought if the world saw us all surfing together, people might change their negative, unfounded opinions about gays. So when I left San Diego, I promised to come back the following year with a camera crew to make a documentary film and share these stories with the world.
With almost 5,000 members on www.gaysurfers.net, we had a head start in terms of finding people to share their stories. We found that Sydney, Australia, Brazil and California were the three areas with the biggest concentration of members. So we put the word out asking people to participate. About 30 gay surfers responded, and we selected the most powerful stories.
Many of those who came forward were based in California, so we planned a trip and set off with a crew to shoot interviews and surf sessions in September, 2012. When we arrived, a few members of the GaySurfers.net community had organized a surf session in San Diego. About 50 people turned up including three-time world champion Cori Schumacher who we met for the first time. The response was overwhelming and really inspiring. We surfed all day and then stayed for a big BBQ on the cliffs overlooking Blacks Beach. It was a massive party and we met some amazing people.
As well as finding participants, other supporters joined the film crew or offered help in any way they could–providing accommodation, meals and transport.
From San Diego, we went on a surf trip to Mexico with former US professional surfer Robbins Thompson. The trip went on, and the documentary got stronger with every new person who sat in front of the camera to share their own unique and powerful story. When people spoke of fear, discrimination, depression and sometimes even suicide, we realized just how important it was to expose the issue. We ended up shooting in five different countries and included insights from outside viewpoints, including straight surfers (professional and amateur), the surf industry, as well as media commentators, psychologists and academics.
After 12 months of filming and four months of editing, the documentary “OUT in the Line-up” is almost finished.
We are conducting the final round of fundraising to complete the project and we just launched our Kickstarter campaign that is running until December 14th.
The documentary is a “passion project.” All key crew are working on a voluntary basis. We are trying to raise $60,000 before December 14th to help cover the cost of releasing the film.
I believe this film can make a change minds by uncovering the taboo and starting conversations that will challenge stereotypes. If you made it this far into the article, I hope you do too! Bullying and homophobia should be an issue put in the past.
There is still a long way to go, so please check out our campaign, donate what you can and share it with your friends.