Women’s surfing in focus

As the sport of surfing grows so does women’s surfing. Behind surfing’s first megastar Kelly Slater are the megastars-in-waiting of women’s surfing like Carissa Moore, Tyler Wright and Alana Blanchard. Though no longer surfing professionally, Layne Beachley is widely considered to be the best female surfer of all time.

Even the extreme world of big wave surfing already has its very own female star in the shape of Maya Gabeira, who despite almost losing her life in a recent run in Portugal is often found accompanying the big wave triumvirate of Garrett McNamara, Carlos Burle and Andrew Cotton.

Of course women’s surfing is still operating in a largely male-dominated sport and culture. While no two surfers should be tarred with the same brush, surfing is not always the most progressive environment for sexual politics. And different female surfers hold different opinions on the subject of sexuality and women’s surfing.

What does this year’s ASP wildcard and most popular female surfer (though absent from the ASP women’s top 10 rankings), Alana Blanchard of Hawaii, have to say about her popularity as a surfer and swim wear model?

From the Newcastle Herald:

I guess being a girl surfer, we get to go to all these cool places and I’m so lucky that Rip Curl do photo shoots and I get these amazing photos I can share with everyone. With modelling there’s some highs and lows to it but I guess it’s a good platform for me and Rip Curl. It’s not like my first choice but it’s definitely a cool thing I get to do.

Of course Blanchard also wants to be known and respected as a great surfer, which of course she is.

World number one and fellow Hawaiian Carissa Moore, in contrast, will not wear skimpy bikinis. Though she is not entirely critical of Blanchard, she sees women’s surfing a little differently.

From Moore’s open letter to Surfer Magazine:

[…] I realize there is also the male audience. The women are sexy and fun to look at. Alana Blanchard has brought thousands of eyes to our sport by wearing her small bikini bottoms. I just want everyone to appreciate that she is an athlete as well and she takes what she does seriously. There is a fine line when it comes to sexualizing our sport. If it is overdone we lose respect, but there is a way that the girls can be marketed tastefully.

Of course everyone will see women’s surfing differently. Everyone’s opinion of what a small bikini is will differ too (Carissa’s aren’t all that big after all). But what would everyone say if the guys started surfing in speedos instead of board shorts?

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