Ah, I hear you say, as you spit out your cup of tea. Another chauvinist surf blog about how surfing is a sport dominated by men and has no place for the fairer sex!
The title was misleading. There isn’t any need to go through the ‘why women can surf’ argument. Steph Gilmore and her crew have been doing a cracking job of that over the last ten years. It’s been the same in the UK scene for a while now, the profile of womens surfing is building, but it still has some way to go. Persuading women to compete seems to be a challenge. I’m not talking about top level surfing, that’s not my area, the SST doesn’t really dabble in the whole ‘don’t talk on the paddle first wave psych out gonna crush all comers’ aggressive competitions, our bunch are students. They might take their surfing seriously but they’re still a relaxed lot, sure, the mens gets pretty intense in the last few rounds, but the joy of the SST is that people are stoked to be there. So you’ve driven 300 miles in a smelly minibus, its 7 degrees, howling onshore and you were knocked out in the first round? No worries, 5 points on the board for your uni, now go get a coffee, have a shower, warm up, then get drunk with everyone else…!
We run the events over weekends, so there’s only really time for 32 men and 32 women to compete. Porthcawl ran with 33 men, Watergate ran with 35, there’s no issues finding blokes who are willing to paddle out for twenty minutes to see who’s best. Maybe its that basic, caveman instinct… First time I paddled out in a competition I was trying to size up my rival stags on the walk down… I figured because all three of my fins were intact and my surfboard wasn’t hired, the odds were in my favour. My illustrious pro surfing career never got off the ground, the SST kicked off and it is sort of frowned upon for the Contest Director to compete in their own event…
Anyway, the point is, we’ve never filled all 32 spaces in the Women’s event. Porthcawl ran with 8. Instant semi finals! The girls were stoked to have made it so far in a surfing competition. Watergate was the same. The swell wasn’t great but Ariana Sefre, from UWE, managed to get a few waves – she’d only been surfing for a month or so prior to the event, and progressed into the final on wave count alone! We know the girls can surf, and I’m not talking about sponsored surfers, the names that everyone knows. We know there are girls out there who rip, or even if they don’t rip, they know how to handle a surfboard, whether its 5’10 or 9’6. Getting the girls to compete is a tricky one, the girls competitions tend to be fun, people chat in the line up, call each other into waves, and enjoy the experience of pushing yourself and your surfing for 20 minutes. Maybe surfing is too masculine, perhaps if we softened our logos and brought on some girl-oriented brands to put up prizes for events we would expand our reach…? Who knows.
Surfing is about having fun, getting in the water with your mates, but its also about personal ability. The SST offers all of these things, who cares if you get knocked out in the first round? We’re stoked to have you on the tour, it’s great to see your name up on the scoreboard, competing for your team! So give it some thought, girls, maybe we’ll see you at the next one – ‘cos we know you can surf!
By Koaster (SST)
Photo (c) India Eden Whiley-Morton: A well known long haired competition winner from Cornwall – and Ben Skinner