Thursday, December 26, 2013

Gender politics at the Evans Head SLSC

I walked right by them, but Izzy spotted these signs on the toilet doors at the Evans Head surf lifesaving club when I was there recently. Aren't they awesome!

Seriously (and unexpectedly) epic work disrupting the representation and performance of gender norms, Evans Head SLSC.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Logging Sweden

I came across this little clip of Swedish surfer, Vera Nording, yesterday. By now I've seen lots of stories of surfing in Scandinavia so the knowledge that there is a thriving surf scene in that part of the world is not new. But until this clip I had not seen any footage of logging.


This clip is lovely and I was stoked to find it. So much about it is so familiar - the shape of the board, the aesthetic of the design and the way the film is shot, the evoking of Southern California with the soft sunlight light, the happy, cute, girl-next-door surfer, the tattoos - but the overall feeling of steely cold is something unfamiliar too. For me, anyway.

Maybe it's just one of those moments when you realise the pervasiveness of certain aesthetics or ideas across this kind of longboarding. I'm not saying that's a terrible thing - my surfing life is recognisable in this way too - I'm just saying that if I hadn't been told this was Sweden, I could have assumed it was, well, any cold place really. The core in this clip wasn't the specifics of what surfing is like at Halmstad, so much as it was the recognisability of the culture of this style of surfing despite it being in Halmstad.

Anyway, the clip is nice and I like it and you can check out more at the Nordic Surfers Vimeo site.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thirty six

Look what I got just in time for summer...

9'6", roll bottom, half-inch cedar stringer, hatchet fin, joy!

Thanks, Tony. Thanks, Woosley!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Runs in the family

I spent a couple of days with my 4 1/2 year old niece, Mame Diarra, this week. I've talked about her on this blog a bit before - mostly about how much she loves the ocean, and how unspeakably happy that makes me.

Mame Diarra loves being in water. She can't swim yet, but she has no fear whatsoever so when you take her in the ocean or a pool, you have to watch/hold onto her her really carefully. The other day, we were in Brisbane, so I took her and she was in heaven. She was straight in there and jumping off the starting blocks and insisting that even though she can't swim, I let go of her so she could try. When I let her go she kicks and thrashes her arms and juts her chin out and smiles as wide as you can imagine. Oh man, I love her.

After our swim we went to the park where she climbed high on all the equipment and made me climb up there with her. I gave up after a while and sat on the swing, so she started pushing me higher and higher. Then she got my phone and took photos of me swinging through the air.

And then she claimed it was her turn and insisted that I push her even higher, higher, higher.

'I know everything', she told me later.

'No you don't', I replied. 'No-one knows everything. And nobody likes a know-it-all anyway.'

'Okay, what don't I know?'

'Well, you don't know how to drive.'

'Yeah, but one day you'll teach me and then I'll know that too.' She looked at me and smiled, knowing she was right.

Attitude like that? Yeah, it runs in the family.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Great Ocean

There have been some really wonderful surfing publications come out in the last 5 years or so. Kurungabaa: a journal of literature, history and ideas from the sea is obviously the one most close to my own heart, but White Horses and Wax Magazine are other stand outs for me. As these publications have appeared, I've been really stoked watching the surf magazine scene diversify both in form, content and contributors. The key is that they are not surf magazines in the sense that surfing is the key focus. Rather, they are focused on thing oceanic whether they be surfing, sailing, swimming, diving, art, music, science, scholarship, history, the environment, sex, culture, politics or any other manifestation of that theme. Surfing in and of itself is actually pretty boring really (Oh come on. It is!), so by broadening out the focus these publications have revived this part of culture of surfing.

So I have been excitedly awaiting the appearance of a new kid on the block, Great Ocean, the first issue of which will be available at the end of this month.

Over the winter we’ve been up to something, avoiding offshores, ducking social occasions and resisting all forms of televised sport while we worked away to bring you the launch edition of Great Ocean Quarterly, a journal of art, literature, history, science and more; a compendium of ideas and inspirations welling up from the briny deep. 
Featuring the very best writers, artists and photographers, Great Ocean seeks to explore our complex relationship with the sea, not only along our own shores, but around the globe.
Great Ocean emerged from the vision of the wonderful, clever and humble Mick Sowry, whose work I came to know through his blog and through his work on Musica Surfica and The Reef (which I will review soon, I promise!). With Mark Willett and Jock Serong on board, the venture has been in the works for some time, so it's great to see it emerge into the world with this beautiful, summery cover.

Of course, to continue, ventures like this need people to read up, so if you would like to become a subscriber, you can get involved over here on the Great Ocean website. In addition to the goodies on offer, 5% of the cover price of every GOQ copy sold is donated to the Indigenous Literature Foundation, meaning this is a publication that has a sense of humanity and social conscience, as well as good looks.

Get involved!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Roxy press release: Please buy our stuff!

So, Roxy finally made a public statement in response to the bad press they received about a promotional clip they made for the Roxy Pro in Biarritz earlier this year.

While I am always hesitant to link to these sites, you can read Roxy's statement over on their blog.  But here it is for your reading pleasure;

More than 20 years ago, we set out to create a brand dedicated to supporting women and girls in their love of surfing and beyond. Since that time, we have worked to build on this heritage by developing great products, creating new competitive opportunities for female athletes, and establishing and growing the Roxy surf and snowboarding teams. We continue to work to do more to achieve this mission. 
As fans and supporters of female athletes, we are disappointed by recent mischaracterizations of the Roxy brand and wanted to take this opportunity to share with our fans the true vision and voice of Roxy. 
First and foremost, Roxy is and always has been about inspiring female athletes of all levels to be themselves and to participate and compete in the sports we all love. As part of this commitment, we have sponsored 42 Women’s ASP championship tour events since 1991 and have continuously worked to build on and enhance those efforts year on year. Roxy’s commitment doesn’t stop there. 
We also work tirelessly to advance opportunities for female athletes and are proud to work with some of the world’s best and most inspiring surf and snowboarding athletes in the world. We are even more proud that the forum created by our events and the tremendous athleticism of the Roxy teams – and all professional female surfers and snowboarders – have helped raise the level of visibility for women’s performance sports and encouraged sports enthusiasts around the world to watch and support women’s surfing and snowboarding in increasing numbers. 
We recognize that some Roxy fans were concerned about an online video produced earlier this year on behalf of the brand. We respect and value that feedback and remain committed to building the Roxy brand in a manner that is consistent with the expectations of Roxy’s fans and our fun, adventurous brand personality. 
Roxy believes in being naturally beautiful, daring and confident. We hope those qualities are conveyed in everything we do and are committed to continuing to work to earn the trust of our fans and to creating products, events and opportunities that deliver on our brand values. 
At Roxy, we will never stop celebrating female athletes. That’s our brand promise, and we will continue to strive to live up to that goal. 
The Roxy Team

When I first read this a few days ago, I dismissed it because sure, Roxy. Whatever. But the more I read it, the more lame I find it.

I have seen some people describe this as an 'apology' by Roxy, but that's not what I think it is at all. I think it's a piece of PR that suggests that the creation of Roxy was some kind of altruistic gift to women's surfing. Um, no. Roxy is a brand, a business, designed to make money. And that is fine. And they have funded contests and sponsored athletes, which is great and I have no doubt that many of the employees there are really committed to these athletes and women's surfing. But the company itself does not sponsor these events as an act of kindness - they do it to promote their brand. It's to the company's benefit to do all these things. Have you been to these events? They are promotional gold.

This whole statement is weird to me. Roxy has 'fans'? Is that what we are calling 'customers' now? Or maybe they use this term to differentiate between the non-surfers who make up the bulk of their market and the people who are interested in the athletes they sponsor? Maybe? They want to deliver on their 'brand promise'? I thought they wanted to sell wetsuits and swimmers.

Roxy claims their brand has been 'mischaracterised' in the responses to their promotional clip. It's right here, in this contradictory space between selling wetsuits and building a 'brand promise', that the whole thing gets murky and complicated for Roxy. Because it is increasingly apparent that they can't be all of those things all the time. But in claiming a position whereby you promote women's sport and female athletes by focusing on their athletic ability, you can't then go and make a clip where you film a five-time world champion topless, sexualised and not even surfing in order to promote a surfing event you are sponsoring. It's inconsistent with your brand. It's confusing for your 'fans'. It makes you sound hypocritical.

And look, Roxy doesn't have to promote female surfers or sponsor surf events. It's great that they do but they don't have to. Except that, well, it's been a key part of their company image. They keep telling us that promoting women's sporting opportunities and female athletes is core to the values of their brand, so when they slip up, it makes them look shitty. It puts cracks in the PR and reminds us that they are, after all, just a company trying to sell us stuff.

And some of that stuff seems good. But I'm not going to buy it. I'm not going to buy it because I'd rather Roxy were just honest and admit they messed up. 'Fans' didn't mischaracterise the Roxy brand, Roxy mischaracterised the Roxy brand. Roxy mischaracterised their surfers. And Roxy misread what it is that is important to the surfers who buy their products, who give them money, who give their brand authenticity in terms of its connections to surfing.

I don't think Roxy needs to apologise to anyone for that because Roxy is a company who can promote themselves however they want. But if they want to position themselves as promoting women's surfing in a way that is focused on athleticism and performance and freedom and 'daring', if they are going to support the competitions where the best high-performance surfers in the world are competing, then do that. And be prepared to come across as hypocritical when they associate themselves with promotions that are contradictory to what they say they represent.

They should be prepared to walk their talk, or accept being called out on being inconsistent. Which they were.

But at the same time we shouldn't expect Roxy to apologise to us as consumers. I am not a 'fan' of their brand, and my career, image and surfing opportunities are not reliant on the ways they promote women's surfing. If they should apologise to anyone, it's to the women who surfed in the contest they sponsored and promoted as a voyeuristic, teenage boy's wet-dream. It's to Stephanie Gilmore for featuring her as a reclining coat-hanger for a range of products, rather than as the talented, successful surfer she is. But not to the people who buy their products, because those people can make their own decisions. For example, Roxy's wetsuit range looks cool, but I won't be buying it because I don't want to be associated with their brand. Because I don't want to be located as a Roxy 'fan'. Because I don't like the way they promote their sponsored athletes and women's surfing more broadly. I find it inconsistent with what what they say the ethics and values of their company are.

Consumers aren't morons. We know we're being sold to. Sometimes we're willing to pretend that's not the case, but we do know we're just playing along. These days there are enough good swimsuits and wetsuits around now that I can make better choices about who I give my (few) dollars to. And for now at least, PR statement or no, it isn't going to be Roxy.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Women sweat

You know pisses me off? Well, aside from the many things I've posted about on here, this ad pisses me off;

Look, I know this ad is old now (it was released in July), but as you may have noticed I've been wholly without words lately, so allow me this indulgence it talking about what a disgrace this advertisement is. Also, I saw a full-page ad for this product in a magazine today.

Basically, what I want to say is fuck you marketing.

Fuck you marketing for saying that while it's good to be active and sweaty, you should only sweat in apparently invisible ways. That you should only sweat in certain places. That you should only sweat if it doesn't draw attention to your body. Especially to your lady parts!

This stupid ad hits me on a personal level, because for a long time, I felt this way. I mean, I would totally have bought into this ad. For most of my childhood and adolescence I did ballet. I did ballet for 14 years from when I was about 3. I'm absolutely terrible at it, but I did it and I loved it. But doing ballet for that long had a pretty big impact on how I felt about my body and how I believed my body should move and be presented. It wasn't until I started surfing and martial arts that I was able to come to love sweating, to learn that it's okay to be ugly when you move, and that every movement I make doesn't have to be beautiful.

For example, in ballet you have to be strong and resilient and technically perfect and endure quite a lot of pain. And while you do all of this, it is imperative that you make it look effortless and as aesthetically pleasing as possible. I still often hear my ballet teacher's voice in my ear telling me how to stand or look - everything needed to be fixed! For example, here are things I needed to remember when standing in third position at the barre, with one arm out in second. (I was going to find an image to put here, but I can't find one I like so just think of a person standing, holding a bar with one arm outstretched.)

Rebecca! Turn your feet out, your knees out. Tuck your hips under. Drop your shoulders. Lift your elbow. Extend through your fingers. Raise your chin, relax your jaw, soften your gaze. 

These are technical points, yes, but they were not meant to improve the function of the movement. Instead they met a kind of technical aestheticism: a ballet-way of looking pleasing.

Don't get me wrong, I loved dance classes and I wouldn't give a single one back. They have had a profound impact on my life and I constantly draw on the things I learned about body awareness and a love for really getting the technicality of a movement. But like I said, everything was up for improvement. Everything needed to be particularly placed. Nothing was ever quite lovely enough. And like I also said, I'm not exactly the most elegant or most graceful person, so I wasn't very good at it. But years of comment on my posture and body positioning are bound to have an impact. And they did. I went through life worrying that I wasn't being pleasing enough to the way other people saw me. No, I'm being serious. I worried about not having perfectly extended fingers. I constantly worried that my posture wasn't very good (it's now very good). And I really did worry that I might be caught sweating because, well, I didn't think that was very pleasing to the eye.

But then I started hapkido and I dare you to do it without sweating! As we trained and kicked and punched and spun and jumped and tumbled and sparred we wore thick cotton uniforms, which by the end of the class would be soaked through. My hair would be wet and plastered to my head and I would be wiping drips of liquid from the corners of my eyes and the tip of my nose. And I loved it. I found it thrilling and freeing. At the same time, as this I started surfing - a learning activity that strips you of any dignity or aesthetics in your efforts for a surprising amount of time. I was salty and sandy and burned and cut and grazed and bruised and water-logged and exposed and red-eyed and exhausted. And I loved and found that thrilling too.

And never, in either of those physical activities, has anyone ever told me that my sweaty body was vulgar or offensive or a problem that needed to be solved. Never! Not once! Because its none of those things. Sweating when you exercise or do a physical activity is simply a part of being active. I love when I finish my classes and I'm sweaty and a mess (like in my last post). It makes me feel as though I've done something!

Of course, I understand that this ad is marketing for a product this company is trying to sell. They have to give us a reason to buy it - I do understand that. But just as is their aim, ads like this impact us. I've previously written about the moment when I realised that I was/still am the panicky woman in the cleaning ads - that I bought into them. So what really gets me is the way this kind of marketing is a part of the bigger picture of the ways we treat women as active people, as sportspeople, as athletes. The expectations we place on their bodies in terms of what they should look like as they do sport. For example, once a student told me - and this is not a word of a lie - that it's a good thing women don't play five sets in grand slam tennis because "who would want to look at a woman after she's played five sets?" (I was so proud when another student jumped in and commented that the guys don't look that crash hot after five sets and that that wasn't really the point of the game anyway, was it?) To be fair, this is the only guy I have ever heard give a shit about whether a woman doing sport sweats or not. Actually, I have never heard any guy comment on this. Ever. I just don't want you to think I'm saying this is a guy thing, because I don't think it is. I think it's a making-women-afraid-of-dumb-things thing. I mean, in this ad, its the judgement of the other women they're worried about. It's dumb.

Advertisements and comments like this silly student's suggest that women can't be confident of what we are doing if we have unsightly body hair, or an un-madeup face, or as in this case, sweaty 'patches'. We can't be confident because what if people around us are offended by those things? I mean, by all means sweat, but don't let anyone see you do it!! And by all means, wax and pluck and makeup and adorn before you exercise if that is your wish. Go for it. But women shouldn't have to feel as though they must worry about such things. They should simply be enjoying whatever it is they are doing, because running and swimming and sparring and dancing and jumping and kicking and surfing feel amazing. And it's great if you can make them look aesthetically pleasing and effortless, but in terms of how you feel when you are doing them - what you are worrying about as you run and swim and dance and kick and surf - whether or not someone thinks you look sweaty should be very, very, very, very, very low down the list.

And marketers totally suck for making this into something that they want us to think even needs to be considered.

(The whole thing reminds of this Mitchell and Webb clip:)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Oh my gosh! I'm completely mental!

It's official. I'm mental. I'm that crazy person who talks to and terrifies strangers on the street.

So tonight I was walking home from my fitness class (yeah, yeah, yeah). I was wearing tights and a t-shirt, and I was sweaty and stringy-haired and most likely red-faced. You know, like what people look like right when they stop exercising. Anyway, as I was walking up the hill past a bus-stop I saw a guy waiting there who looked as though he'd been at a gym or something as well. He was leaning up against a pole, listening to tunes on his head-phones and reading a book.

It was the book that caught my eye. I'd nearly passed him when I realised the cover of the book looked as though it had a surfer getting barreled on it. Without thinking, I stopped and stepped backwards and stuck my head down to look at the cover of the book and asked

'Is that a surfer on the cover?'

He looked at me and slowly took out his headphones as I repeated my question. I think if he wasn't already leaning on a pole he would have stepped back. Some sweaty, sneaker-clad woman coming up to him on the street to ask about his book? Poor guy! As I asked the question, my brain was only just starting to compute that I was being a total weirdo, but those signals had not yet reached my mouth, so I persisted,

'Is it? It's just that I surf and I don't meet many people who surf in the city, so I'm always looking for things about the ocean. Is it about the ocean?'

It was at this point that my thoughts caught up with me and I realised that not only was my behaviour left of field for an inner-city evening, but that what I was saying was itself mental. But by now he'd stopped being concerned by the crazy lady, and started to be amused. I'm not particularly threatening looking. In fact, I kind of look like a cartoon. Perhaps because of this, he smiled and answered me,

'Oh, no. It's not a surfer. It looks like one though.'

I realised I needed to leave this guy and his book alone. I still couldn't make out exactly what it was, but it was time to move away, so I started to walk again.

'Yeah, it really does, huh!'

He turned to explain a bit more.

'It's not though. It's a fantasy book.'

'Oh cool. Well, enjoy it. It's a lovely cover.'

And off I went.

It was a funny little exchange. It was one of those moments when you lose all consciousness of the context of your thoughts, and instead you just follow them. But of course, context is everything, right, so you need to be aware of it. If that had happened to me - if someone had unexpectedly stuck their head down to look at the cover of the book I was holding and asked me about it while I was minding my own business and listening to music at a bus stop - I would have totally freaked out. No, really. I'm a super jumpy person and I don't trust anyone when I'm out and about (a consequence of spending too much time alone). But tonight, lost in my own world, I was so taken by the flash of an image of a wave and a person on the front of a book that I forgot all of that and just involved myself in this guy's private little moment.

Oh man. I clearly need to continue working on my social skills. But I still think it was an image someone on a wave which had been taken from underneath the barrel...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


It's important to call out bullshit when you see it, and that is what plenty of people did when Roxy released their now infamous Roxy Pro campaign back in July.

But it is equally as important to point out change for the better when you see it too. And the latest clip for the Roxy Pro is most definitively, change for the better;

I want to make it clear that I'm not promoting Roxy here. Not at all. For a whole heap of reasons, I don't buy their products or support their company with my dollars (nor those of other mainstream surf companies either). But I also understand that in professional and competitive surfing, they have an important role to play in funding, facilitating and promoting the sport and the athletes. And so, in this case I say well done Roxy, keep up the improved work.

And fingers crossed the competitors get good waves and barrels galore!

Monday, August 19, 2013

In defence of Anastasia Ashley

So, I've been thinking a lot about that clip of part of Anastasia Ashley's pre-comp warm-up. I'm sure by now you have seen it. It contains footage of her sort of dancing on the beach as she warms up. The moves she does involve lots of hip rotations and the person who put it together has set it to a song called 'Bubble Butt' (at least, based on the lyrics, that's what I assume it's called). This clip has been widely circulated on surf websites, blogs and social media, but I've decided that I won't post it up here because I think it's really creepy. If you haven't seen it, I'm sure you can find it if you really want to.

The thing is, Anastasia Ashley can do whatever the hell she wants. I'm not saying her moves in this clip are my thing or that I think it does women's surfing many favours, but if she wants to do those moves on the beach to warm up, then that's up to her. She's doing a dance move and it's provocative. So what? And I'm also not saying that there isn't a problem with the sexualisation of professional women surfers (and other athletes) and the effects that has on women's surfing more generally, because there are some really, really big problems there.

But the thing that I find troubling about that clip is that someone has filmed Anastasia Ashley doing this without her knowledge or consent and has then edited it to some shitty music to drive home the point, 'Hey look! Anastasia Ashley's butt'! Yeah I realise she's on a public beach and in front of (possibly) a lot of people, but that doesn't mean she wanted this person to film her and post it on the web. I do lots of silly physical things while I'm wearing swimmers on the beach, which I would hate for people to film me doing, set to music and post online. Doing things in public isn't an invitation for them to film and ridicule you. In fact, she explicitly says this in an interview with following the blow-up around this clip:
SHAPE: Do you have any special pre-competition rituals or warm-up routines?
AA: Usually before an event, I try to relax and have a super mellow day. Just before my heats, I go down to the beach and try to get in the zone. I have to block everyone out and not talk to them. It's important to me because I've been doing that for so long that I feel like it's part of my routine and that's what helps me do well.

Sarah Beardmore has made a parody clip of Anastasia Ashley's moves. In this clip, Beardmore is performing for the camera, rather than preparing for a comp - the difference brings the parody to life.

Like I said, I have issues with the way some women who surf are encouraged to and rewarded for using their sexuality to promote themselves as athletes, and I think there are plenty of conversations to be had about that, but this is different. What it does more than anything is highlight the different ways that various female surfers are read and understood in surfing culture - I mean, if this filmer was really interested in not putting her down, they might have included some footage of her surfing as well.

Anyway, Ashley seems okay about it - maybe she would even have given permission if the person filming had asked - but I think it sucks that the main response to this clip has been to ridicule Anastasia Ashley when she has done nothing wrong. Any criticism arising form this particular clip should focus on how creepy it is to make and distribute clips like this one, without the consent of the person being filmed.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Women get it back-to-front

Neil Griffith (over at Modyssey) took this image of a woman (Tiffany?) playing around on the Sunshine Coast. 
Thanks, Neil.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Women get critical

Holy nose ride, Kassia Meador.
I honestly don't know who took this picture, which makes me hesitant to post it. But it is uncredited all over Tumblr at the moment (which is something I really hate about Tumblr, actually), so here it is being blogged now too. 

Because it's a really great shot.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Layne Beachley

Cape Solander, 13 May 2009. Sequence, Billy Morris via Coastalwatch.

Layne Beachley is someone who just seems to rub people up the wrong way. And sure, I've seen her do some things and heard her say some things where I just thought, 'Really?' But I have also seen and heard many famous surfers do and say things that made me shake my head, so I don't really pay Layne's moments too much heed. But for some reason, other people do, and they really rub their dislike of her in her face.

And the sad effect of this has been that she doesn't get the credit that she deserves for her role in  driving and building the profile of competitive surfing in Australia, and in particular the opportunities that many professional female surfers now enjoy. I wouldn't say she is the patron saint of women's surfing - not at all - but I would say that because people don't like her, they don't want to acknowledge her achievements and impact. She rips, she was world champion seven times, she has caught some impressive and heavy waves (including those pictured in this post from her session at Cape Solander in May 2009), and from 2006-2013 she started and ran a competition for women that had the highest prize pool on the women's side of the ASP World Championship Tour - $140,00) in 2012. (As of this year, that competition has been cancelled due to lack of sponsors.)

Cape Solander, 13 May 2009. Image Tim Bonython via Coastalwatch.

Layne constantly advocates for recognition of women's surfing in the media, in the industry, and financially. One woman who surfed on the tour at the same time as Layne told me that as world champion,  Layne felt a responsibility to argue up the money she was earning from sponsors as she felt that she had to set the bar for what other women could earn. And whether you like her or not, that kind of thinking and effort is something that deserves recognition of its own.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Women have surfed for as long as men

Here are just a few images of some women whose surfing I admire and who have made important contributions to surfing and surfing culture over the last few hundred years. And I assure you, this list of women here, is the tip of a very big iceberg.

Engraving of women surfing in Hawai'i.

Isma Amor was surfing in Manly from as early as 1912.

Isabel Letham was the infamous teenage girl taken into the surf with Duke Kahanamoku in 1915. She was an amazing woman. As part of a long and full life, she was the Director of Swimming for the City of San Francisco. She decided to teach surf lifesaving techniques as part of her program. She attempted to join Manly life saving club in the late 1920s, but was knocked back because as a woman she would not able to handle the rough conditions of the sea. What a crock of shit. (Note: Women were not admitted as members of the Australian Life Saving Association until the 1980s. For real.)
Isabel Letham is a total hero. You can read more about her via the National Library of Australia

 Phyllis O'Donnell surfing in the 1964 World Titles at Manly. She won. Photo by Ron Perrott, taken from the Historic Houses Trust website for the Surf City exhibition held in Sydney last year.

Linda Benson seems like a pretty cool cat.

Rell Sunn. All time.

Wendy Botha is a four time world surfing champion (1987, 1989, 1991, 1992). She still rips.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Women drop in.

Yeah they do.
It's okay when it's with friends (like in this shot).
(via my current favourite, the lovely Stillness)

Friday, August 02, 2013

Women are strong

I've already written about how Melissa Combo is always one of the best and strongest surfers in the water.
Her surfing and her style commands any lineup I've seen her in.
This image is from Joni Sternbach's, Surfland, series.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

Women win the US Open

Yeah Carissa Moore!

Women shred

Jodie Barsby shredding in the Maldives.

Photos via Jodie's blog
Not sure of the photographer, but I think it is Swilly
Sincere apologies for the limited info!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Women make awesome surf films

This video, Kelly Says, is awesome. Starring, filmed and edited by Hannah and Dannie in Newquay, it is (in their own words) a "what-u-mentary by two girl surfers who are not the best surfers by far... we're not the best filmers... and we quite often struggle to get the surf report right". Pretty much a bio for me too. In fact, watching this clip reminds me of surfing with my own girlfriends and all our own dork-iness. It's so great!

You can follow them on Twitter: @kellySaysSurf, and you can read a longer interview with them over on Surfer Dad (which is where I found this clip).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Women surf

Since watching the debate about the apparent inability of major surf companies to represent women who surf as surfers, I've been keeping my eyes peeled for current images and clips that show how it can be done without having to sexualise the women. I mean, I've been keeping my eyes peeled more than usual. And since I've not been writing much of late, I'm going to try and reignite my energy for contributing to an ever-growing archive of awesome images and video and stories of women surfing on this blog, which was part of the original intention anyway. I mean, the way I see is that there are an ever-growing number of bikini-clad images, so the more images and clips I can point to that show women's surfing is awesome whether sexualised or not, the better.

I'm going to start with, Say No More, which I saw over on Surfsister's always great blog. This film is showing at Carlsbad Village Theatre tonight and looks like its got some awesome surfing in it.

Say No More from Bird Man Media on Vimeo.

I'm straight up excited to see this film, so am suddenly bummed I don't live in California. If you go see it, I'd love a review!

Surf erotica

Thanks to Facebook (hi Dallas!), I just discovered a whole genre of surf erotica that I never knew existed. Obviously, if I'd thought about it for more than a second, I would have assumed this existed though. (Sorry for the Amazon promo. I'm to time-poor for photo editing today).

This gay erotic novella is set on the California coast among college-age surfers. The story follows Joey Verona who is the second son in a highly conservative family. Joey has turned 18 and just had his first beer. He's on his way to college, mainly to get away from his super religious parents. Joey finds that life on his own is a whole lot more than he'd ever hoped. Little does he know it when he leaves home, but he also finds himself in bed with his big brother's best friend, Dusty.

Thirteen tales of gay romantic erotica to make you swoon! Includes three stories never before published. Set in locations from Hawaii to Florida and New York to outer space, these stories will charm you, excite you and make you believe in romance all over again. 

Clancy Wade didn't plan on taking off for the Australia Day long weekend, but after waking up naked in the bed of his best mate Johnno, Clance panics, packs up his surfboard and his faithful dog Bluey, and heads north in an attempt to straighten himself out. But at a remote beach on the New South Wales north coast, Clance meets Brazilian traveller Danilo, an open-minded, free-spirited surfer who's about to teach Clance that sometimes in order to find yourself... you just have to let it all hang out.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I know this is late... but why Roxy? Why?

So, despite my promises, I have not yet commented here about the now-infamous promo for the 2013 Roxy Pro (shortboard) in Biarritz. (I'm not going to link to it here. If you want to watch it, you can look it up in the usual places.) A lot of other people have been talking about it though with especially thoughtful pieces by Bec Woods, Cori Schumacher, and Tetsuhiko Endo.

As I've (slowly) gathered my thoughts on this clip, I actually have been talking about it in other places, and I have most certainly been talking about it with other women, especially other women who surf. One of the most telling moments was at a social event I went to where there were female surfers a-plenty. When I showed one of them the clip (a competitive female longboarder) she stared and gasped and kept turning to look at me wide-eyed and silent in disbelief. Then she turned the phone to the other women who all watched it one by one or in groups with the same responses - awkward laughter, head shakes and unsurprised disappointment. I wish I could have filmed their responses to show Roxy.

And yet, I've still not written anything substantial. The thing that I kept coming back to is that in past posts I have already said so much about similar clips, so I felt as though anything I said this time would be repetitive and add nothing new. And please believe me when I tell you that writing that sentence makes me depressed. Then again, the marketing of professional women surfers by big surf companies makes me depressed.

But I've thought about it a bit more and I think that in the case of this clip, there is a particular problem that they can't argue their way out of. (Well, there are many problems, but for the sake of focus and brevity, I will just focus on this one.)

It's the same problem I noted when I discussed the clip of Laura Enever, in which Billabong did a really similar thing to 'launch' her as their newest surfer. Similar to the Roxy clip, the surfers were sort of positioned as 'athletes', but were treated and represented as eye candy. I'm not going to bother going into discussion of the sexualisation of women in surf media here. We all know the arguments about this and we all know the arguments in defence - 'sex sells', 'they're allowed to be beautiful', 'it's good for surfing' and so on. And if the clips in these cases had been selling clothes or holidays or hair products or phones (!!) or whatever, it probably wouldn't have ruffled so many feathers. But since the product they are selling is elite female athletes who are amongst the top surfers in the world, then I don't think those arguments are going to fly. Since the other product Roxy was selling was one of the few competitions that the women have on the world shortboarding tour, this clip is unacceptable and lame. Since they featured a woman who is the FIVE TIME WORLD CHAMPION, without showing her surfing at all - in fact, without even showing her face, which was their marketing strategy - this is unacceptable. It's disrespectful to Stephanie Gilmore, and to all the other surfers. It's disrespectful to their skill and technique. It's disrespectful to the years of hard work they have put in to be competing at that level. It's just so totally disappointing.

Like I said, there are a whole heap of other issues raised by this clip, mostly to do with the effects of this kind of marketing on the sport itself, on the women competitors and on the culture of surfing more broadly - but I'm not going to go into detail about all that because those issues are really what this entire blog is about!

Roxy totally deserved to be dragged over the coals this time, because there was no real justification for this clip. The claims of 'oh, but we are going to release a series and she's surfing in the next one' don't really fly, because this was the first one, and thus the one that was always bound to garner the most attention. And this clip isn't 'good for women's surfing', it's good for the marketing of some female surfers as potential billboards for products.

What would be good for women's surfing is to feature the incredible skills and achievements of the female athletes who are at the top of their sport. Doing so would help to push back on the snide, lingering, irritating and increasingly difficult to maintain comments by those who claim that the women on tour can't surf and that's why people don't watch the competitions. The women on tour can surf really, really well, and that deserves some respect. Not least from the very companies who are supposed to support them.

A more recent clip, congratulating their star surfer for winning an ESPY for the 'Best Female Action Sports Athlete' is a lot more like it, and suggests they have taken a lesson from the fury over the past couple of weeks. Then again, it would have been a tough sell to make any other kind of clip considering the award, right? And they still get their necessary bikini shots in...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sail to me

Gerry Wedd: Clever clogs.

This would make a delightful companion to the one I already have. Hmmm...

Check out more of Gerry's recent work over on his blog.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Noosa Fest 2014: Making hay while the furore shines

I know I said I'll write about the Roxy clip, and I will. But in the meantime, this is hilarious.

Nicely played, Phil Jarratt.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Yesterday I went to have breakfast with friends at a cafe. They were, as ever, running late. I had been sat at a communal table, where I was right next to a young couple who were alternating between chatting and playing on their phones. I didn't spend time listening-in to their conversation - I'm opposed to conscious eavesdropping - but my ears did pick up on the guy's response to a comment from his girlfriend that I didn't hear:

Him: You don't even know what a grommet is! (Extended silence.) It's like, a surfie dude with long hair.

I had to repress laughter at his patronising her and then, when it came time to divulge the knowledge, clearly having no real idea himself.

We were sat right next to each other, and while I was sorely temped to speak up, I stayed silent and carried on reading the paper.

P.S. I would like to acknowledge that I have not (yet) commented on the Roxy thing. I will. I am. I promise! I just needed some time to think through why this is so different to all the other myriad times I have written about this issue (such as this recent example of surf companies sexualising women). Because, it isn't really different to those, but something about it has resonated with people. And the presence of this video in mainstream media in the USA and Australia (and beyond) deserves to be thought through. So I will get to it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Where I'm from, we have a lighthouse that is a pretty central feature of the town. Built in 190, it sits above the town on the headland, shining it's light across the bay and the hinterland. The light spins methodically, flashing across the town every 15 seconds. It's mesmerising to sit and watch it wash for kilometres and kilometres out to sea and along the coast. Apparently, the light has a range of 50 kilometres! It's also the most powerful light in Australia. The clean blue and white colours are striking, especially when the sky is as clear blue as it was this morning.

When you drive into town from the north, it's the first thing you see of the town. The highway is a bit different now, but when I was a child, you would come over this one hill and the you would see the lighthouse and the town and the ocean in front of you. My family made a sport of being the first one the yell, 'I can see the lighthouse!' when we drove back from Brisbane or the Gold Coast. I still think 'I can see the lighthouse!' whenever I make that trip, which is often.

I can always see it from the places that I surf - in fact, you can see it from almost every single break in the area. You would think I'd get bored of staring at it, but despite it's constancy, it always looks different, depending on your perspective and the weather. 

I know the lighthouse is redundant these days - ships don't really need lighthouses to keep them safe as they navigate the sea - but I love that it still lights up the night. It's incredibly romantic. I find it comforting and familiar, and I can't imagine home without it. 

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sea glass

I do love a sunny day in the water; when the sky and sea are cobalt, turquoise and clear. But sometimes I think I like being in the sea best when the sky is grey and rainy.

Yesterday afternoon I surfed with Izzy at a favourite break. There was only one other person out, so although the waves were tiny and slow, it didn't really matter. Out to sea, the clouds were pale grey and we could see a squall pouring rain down just south of the rocks out in the bay. When I looked back to land, the clouds were dark, which made the water glow that soft green, like sea glass. It was beautiful. As we chatted between waves the rain kept falling, splashing the surface and dripping down our faces, collecting the salt in the corners of our mouths.

By all standards, it was far from a good surf, but it was so quiet and easy and pretty that I left feeling much calmer than I had when I arrived.

I don't think I'll ever get used to how beautiful the changing colours of the sea are.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Warning: May cause jealousy.

I see footage like this - sunny and warm and carefree and smooth and calming - and I think to myself: what the hell am I doing? What. The hell. Am. I. Doing? (Via Toddy)

Travers Adler | Maui from Mollusk Surf Shop on Vimeo.

And then I remember there's a time to work and a time to surf, and there are times when those times are not in sync with each other. So in a way, this makes me want to work a bit harder, so I can enjoy the surfy times even more.

Either way, I'll be going surfing this weekend.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Big Wave World Tour

So, following the post below, I just found out about the newly announced, Big Wave World Tour. You can read the full press release on the Big Wave World Tour website, here.

The BWWT is going to be run by the ASP and according to ASP CEO Paul Speaker,
The competitors on the BWWT are some of the fiercest and most-respected watermen on the planet and we are eager about the opportunity to take their tour to the next level. This arrangement also allows the world’s best surfers on the ASP World Championship Tour to compete in big-wave events moving forward.
Kieren Perrow said that,
It adds another dimension to the sport and will make it significantly easier for ASP Top 34 surfers to compete in big-wave events.
So, I'm not clear (nor really interested) on the details but the way the tour will be run highlights renowned big wave surfers like Greg Long and Shane Dorian, while creating space for World Championship Tour surfers to compete;
The new-found arrangement between the ASP and the BWWT will allow for top ASP surfers such as 11-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 41, reigning ASP World Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS), 32, Hawaiian phenom John John Florence (HAW), 20, amongst others to join respected BWWT surfers like Greg Long (USA), 28, Grant Baker (ZAF), 40, and Carlos Burle (BRA), 45, in competition with waves in the 25-foot-and-above range.
Following my point from the previous post, while this format creates more opportunities for popular and excellent surfers like Kelly Slater, Joel Parkinson and John John Florence to further show their skills and daring in different conditions, and to earn more money and prestige while doing so, there are no women involved. I'm sure there are some really convincing arguments for this as well; for example that women are not as strong etc etc. And that is actually fair enough. But I'm pretty certain that most of the names on that list aren't going to get high results each of the six competitions. I mean, some of those guys are going to consistently rank pretty low, right? Isn't that how it works? Which means that not all the guys in this competition are going to be crowned the champ every time. I'm pretty sure that they could include women who were interested, experienced and willing to take part. Even if they didn't win, even if they didn't come in the top 5 or 10 or 15, their presence on the BWWT might still see them get some good results that are competitive in the existing field of men. I mean, surfers don't have to win events to be successful on the Tour - most surfers aren't going to win anyway. 

Including qualified women in the BWWT would be interesting and wonderful and good for competitive surfing. I might not hold my breath for it to happen though.

Duct Tape Invitational. Another chick-free event!

This morning I opened my inbox to an email from Nathan Oldfield with a link to his latest clip. As always, it's pretty and fun.

T.C.S.S. Presents: A Doc-umentary from Nathan Oldfield on Vimeo.

But it had the added function of reminding me how annoyed I felt that there were, as ever, no women invited. And it wasn't just me! According to Facebook, there were quite a few crew commenting on how of the sixteen spots open, not one was offered to a woman. As far as I could tell, this was not officially a 'men's' comp so don't you think that is a problem?

Of course, this is not an uncommon story. Big wave riding competitions rarely invite women, and when they have it's been as an 'exhibition' event. (Maybe something has changed recently. I haven't been following these kinds of events as they're not on my radar for now. I doubt it though.) This is usually argued on the basis that women are not as strong or involved in this kind of surfing as men. Sure, okay.

But log riding, with its emphasis on style and technique, seems to be one of the areas of surfing where men and women should be able to compete against each other without it being such a problem.

Especially when this  event has a US$10,000 prize pool.

Men who surf constantly talk about how supportive they are women's surfing and like to associate themselves with women who surf. But it seems that often this is lip-service. I'm not saying that the surfers, organisers and film-makers associated with this event aren't totally encouraging of women in the surf, because these men are! Very much so. Nathan Oldfield always features women in his films, and Dane Peterson is well-known for his images of Belinda Baggs, Kassia Meador and Isabelle Braly to name a few. But highly publicised events like the Duct Tape Invitational also need to take the next step to show how great women surfers are by including them as competitors  In that way, it's up to the organisers I suppose.

Joel Tudor, I'm looking at you, sir!

Sure, it might take a few years before we see a female winner or even a woman in the finals, but let women get some experience competing against the guys in these kinds of events, and I reckon they will quickly make their competitive presence felt.

Inviting women to participate in contests like this not only promotes women's surfing on the event days, but also over time through associated media and widely-promoted clips such as Oldfield's. It would help normalise that women surf, and that they surf well, and that they should be invited to take part in contests like this one.