On Sex and Surfing
If I see another “surf edit” that consists of more prancing on the beach than riding waves, I might throw up.
Women’s surfing isn’t just posing and giggling and tiptoeing around on longboards. I have nothing but respect for the ladies who pride themselves first and foremost on their feminine grace, but that ain’t me. My kind of surfing is board shorts and reef scars and attacking the lip. It's 5/4s and frozen fingers. It’s throwing back Bintangs faster than the boys. It’s guttural screams, sometimes borne of ecstasy and sometimes of frustration, that send shivers down the spine of any man who has certain expectations about the way young blonde ladies should behave. And yes, it’s sexy; there’s something appealing about glistening bodies twisting and contorting, flying on the face of nature's miraculous gift with towers of spray cascading in their wake.
There’s nothing wrong with a beautiful woman who knows how to capitalize on her sex appeal, but it gets old fast when it’s all glam and no grit. The stars get interviewed about their romantic lives, what they ate for breakfast, their “favorite part of male anatomy.” They’re photographed with their legs spread, tasteful sideboobs peeking out in all their glory. They’re celebrated, but more often than not it’s for their bodies, while their talent on a board gets relegated to the margins.
All of this is totally uninspiring when it comes to actual surfing, and it’s getting us nowhere. I want to watch ads and edits that feature more shredding and less writhing around idly in the sand. I don’t want to watch the women’s CT go down in Huntington slop while the men invent new airs in all-time J-Bay. The females are expected to be average, second always to the guys.
Of course, women’s surfing has shattered many a glass ceiling, thanks to fearless pioneers who have overcome the odds. I shed a tear of reverent awe when Steph unleashes on a feathering wall, or the unwavering NorCal ladies suit up at Mavs even as the men shake their heads. So why is it still so hard to come by a film of women just surfing? Why is my Instagram feed a monotonous parade of sandy asscheeks?
I’ll tell you why. We’re all operating under the pretense that women’s surfing is never going to catch up with men’s — that we’re physiologically incapable of ever doing what John John does, so why even try? Why not just make women’s surfing its own distinct affair, and throw in sex and fashion to make it all a little more palatable? The status quo dictates that women's surfing sans sex is not economically viable. I call bullshit.
Is there a place in surfing for sultry photoshoots? Maybe. But it’s time to stop applauding mediocrity packaged neatly with cutesy fashion. It’s time to let waveriding take center stage so that innovation, performance, and power can flourish. Let’s do away with the gendered expectations. We’re all part of the same unruly, boisterous bunch, and we all live for the same thing: launching higher, tucking deeper, and going ballistic on waves while the rest of the world ceases to exist.
Editor's Note: This piece was written in response to a prompt from the editor-in-chief of Stab, a "men's interest" surf magazine. They decided not to publish.