If you’re in the women’s surf industry or passionate about surfing, this article in The Inertia is a must read. It’ll touch a deep chord with feminists, supportive male sport enthuisasts, and definitely female pro athletes across the board.
My father is a big supporter of female athletes and gets so worked up when he sees the disappointing money discrepencies between men and women pro athletes in their sport. (Check out the career earnings of the top women pro surfers compared to the top men pro surfers).
From a young age he has taught me to charge just as hard as the guys. When I was just big enough to swim, I’d wrap my little arms around his neck and dangle from his shoulders like superman’s cape. We’d drop into the pounding shorebreak at Kaanapali Beach together for hours. He was like a hero to me, leading me in and out of perilous ocean adventures unscathed, while I sported a huge grin on my face. I learned at a young age to trust myself and be confident in the ocean despite my petite female build. When I surfed “Jaws” and told him afterwards, he said ‘Well what did you go and do that for?” I was like, “Dad, you taught me how to surf and I guess it eventually led me there…”
I would not have been so brave to charge the male dominated line up of “Jaws”, or the male dominated surf school business scene of Maui, if my dad had taught me that girls are suppose to play with Barbies, look cute, and let the boys have all the fun in the waves. No way! He wanted his daughter to play with the big boys in big waves!
I know first hand how the big sponsors like Billabong and Quicksilver can drop any girl or business with a stroke of a pen. After four years of working with Billabong as a sponsor of our girls surf camp, with no explaination we were suddenly dropped and replaced by our competitor on island. Could it be that the owner of that school had a “Barbie-like” surfer girl image that caught Billabongs eye? That same year we were dropped, I was among the first crew of girls that surfed “Jaws”. Billabong never recognized me or the other women pioneers at “Jaws”. Did we not fit the “pretty girl” mold that sales their bikini’s?
Now looking back, I realize that I didn’t need a Billabong sponsor to prove that we are a successful surf school in the first place. Each year our bookings increase, and we’ve touched hundreds of girls lives through our surf camps, as well as recognized in media outlets like Seventeen, Teen People, and Time magazines. We’ve survived the drop off of business after 9-11, the 2009 recession, and sold out our surf camp in 2011. Our camps are truly making a difference in the girls lives who attend and that’s truly all that matters.
Maybe because of the empowering difference our camp has made in the next generation of surfer girls, these girls will create a new era of gender equality in surfing and hopefully womens sports across the globe. I sure hope so. Because when I read articles like “Women in Surf – No Girls Allowed”, I get all worked up like my dad. Have we regressed?
After 10 years of enjoying the women’s Billabong Pro event at Honolua Bay, Billabong suddenly dropped that as they did our surf camp. During the same week that the women’s Billabong Pro is normally held, Billabong’s Pipemasters event heralds a whooping $425,000 prize purse (the biggest prize purse at the Vans Triple Crown event). And they somehow can’t afford a pro contest for women on Maui now? Go figure?!
Surfing has taught me many life lessons, but there’s one that helps me come to peace with gender inequality and that is that the ocean does not discriminate, but teaches us about humility. The corporations certainly need this lesson, and us consumers are the only ones to teach it to them.
My Dad and I sailing together in Kaanapali
My first experiences surfing the shores of Maui on the plywood skimboard dad made for me circa 1979 at Kaanapali Beach.
Skipping down the face of a mountain of ocean at “Jaws”, March 2007