Confessions of a Surfer Girl
October 28, 2016 | 0 Comment
Although surfing has grown in popularity among both genders over the years, it’s still common to see a lot more men in the water than women. According to The Inertia, out of the 5 million people in the world who surf, only 10-15% of them are women. As one climbs the ranks toward professional levels, women surfers face a lot of difficulties in finding sponsors, having to maintain their image and being taken seriously as a surfer in general.
We spoke to a few awesome surfer girls around Canggu and Uluwatu to hear about their experiences and thoughts as women who surf. We spoke to Mayla, an aspiring professional who participated in the German Surfing Championships, and her friend Janine, who is a travel blogger that surfs whenever she can. We also spoke to Chulie, a passionate surfer girl who lives in Bali, and Hugo, who hits the waves when she’s not running Surfers House.
Mayla & Janine
From the get go, female surfers have trouble getting past being seen as a girl rather than being considered just another sportsperson, especially by other surfers.
Chulie: in the water when you’re surfing with other surfers, they shouldn’t look at you like a woman, but as a surfer. And you should have the same rules about it. Like be strong and choose good positions.
Apparently lots of men’s conception of surfing is that it’s too dangerous to be in the water so women should stay on the beach rather than come out and surf. Our surfer girls say they often hear comments from male surfers saying women shouldn’t be in the water with them.
Mayla: My boyfriend sometimes says “[surfing] it’s a man’s sport.” Even though he says it’s a man’s sport, he’s supported me a lot. He’s pushing me to perfect my development. But sometimes he’s in the surf spot and there’s a girl who cannot surf and she gets barreled or she just gets smashed and he’ll be like “what is this girl doing here? You really need to prove yourself. You need to work double hard to become as same as the guys.”
Chulie: Before when I had just started surfing, there were less girls surfing in the water and there were some guys I remember saying “surfing is something dangerous, it’s not for girls.” Things like that. It wasn’t really popular among girls in Bali, but now it’s grown and there are a lot of girls in the water.
However they say that real professional surfers who are truly good at surfing don’t care about gender and encourage everyone to get in the water regardless of whether you’re a guy or a girl.
Janine: Some guys they really want to encourage you. The really good surfers have fun when other surfers have fun too. And they say “go for it!” and they push you harder. Some guys say they have fun watching girls rip and they cheer and they enjoy it. Because we bring more mellow vibes to the water than the guys so I think they enjoy having girls around.
Chulie: I’ve been in really serious, places with big waves like PG Australia and they don’t say “you’re a woman surfer, that’s who you are.” They say “You surf? Come on that’s cool.” It’s not about being taken seriously, I don’t care actually. But if you’re a good surfer, professional, you never think about whether you’re a woman.
Women who surf also have the double standard of having to worry about their physical appearance instead of just focusing on how they’re surfing. Most often, sponsors pay more attention to what the girl looks like over her surf skills.
Hugo: A lot of articles on the internet say the girl should be fit, girls should look cool, girls should look sexy. So for the girl it’s more like a style. But for the boys it’s more like a sport. And even if the girl is surfing really well, like professional, the industry and the sport require the girl to look cool. And the guys can be gross with long hair and not shave, and no one cares how they look. There was an article on the internet once, it talked about a girl, a professional surfer. And she’s just a normal girl, she doesn’t look like a superstar or anything. But she was surfing well, and this guy was saying she’ll never get sponsored because she’s just ugly. No one looks at the guy's face when he's surfing, so why is appearance a big requirement for girls?
Mayla: I get a lot of free clothes, free bikinis, surf stuff like that. But to find people who actually want to give you boards or give you money, it’s hard...Sometimes I don’t like the image of the surfer girl. They always need to be super beautiful, super sexy, have makeup. I don’t want to support that. We can look beautiful as women but we don’t need to sell our bodies or be too sexy. Sometimes girls wear bikinis and the wipeout comes and they’re naked and they get the next set on the head because they’re trying to get their bikini right. Things like that are just stupid. Wear things that are beautiful, even sexy but make sure you can actually surf waves.
Janine & Mayla
Despite these obstacles, there are badass women surfers who rip waves and persevere every day in order to get the recognition they deserve. They encourage other ladies to keep trying and pursuing the sport they love.
Mayla: My advice is we need to learn from our mistakes. My mistake is we started on too small boards. We had too much ego, we were thinking we could surf with a small board. And then we were like okay we should start with a soft top again and go slowly. Because it’s a sport that takes really long to learn. It’s not easy and there are a lot of things that need to come together like wind, tides, waves, people. Everything needs to be there. So you just need a lot of patience.
Janine: Definitely get a teacher. Push yourself into some waves so you really get hooked. And then get into bigger waves and you get the feeling from surfing.
Chulie: Just have fun in the water. That’s all. When you don’t think about how you’re looking, how you’re doing, you just have fun.
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