“There are about 5 million people in the world who surf, and ten to fifteen percent of them are women” (Endo, 2010). The women also purchase around 500 million dollars’ worth of surf and skate product a year, making it easy to say women have a big impact on surf culture and are becoming more prominent. The number of female amateur and pro surfers has been steadily increasing through the last decade which is also fueling the guy and girl surfing class. Who owns the waters.
Surfing has been and continues to be an increasingly huge part of the world of sports, for both men and women, it is also clear that this has rimarily been a male dominated sport and culture throughout the very beginning of surfing. Of course a majority of the most famous surfers are male, but even at that, some of the best surfers in the world are female. Even though this is clearly true, over the year’s female surfer’s and their talents have been undermined because they have continuously been built up to be a sex symbol.
For instance, when pro surfer Anastasia Ashley took on one of the biggest waves to be ridden, she was given the headline, “Hot Surfer Chick Catches Huge Wave, Famous Butt Unscathed” (Herreria, 2015). No one is even paying attention to the fact that she just crushed riding a massive wave because everyone else is to concerned with what her body looks like. This paper’s intention is to explore female surfers whose talent is constantly being undermined because they are being portrayed as sex symbols and to also explore the various female surfer stereotypes that exist.
It is clear that women do indeed make up a pretty good proportion of surfer’s world wide, much more than they used to of of course, but it seems nearly impossible for them to escape the shadow of this male dominated sport. The first topic I will focus on in this paper is the different stereotypes that exist for female surfers. There are stereotypes for female athletes across the board and it is true that in many situations, female sporting events aren’t taken as seriously as their male counterparts and they are definitely not as popular.
Besides all the stereotypes that exists about female surfers, whether scholarly or popular beliefs, I also plan to focus on how surfing sponsorships affect female surfers and how they are “applied” to both male and female surfers. Throughout this paper I intend to primarily show ow popular culture and media shape and influence the views that people have about female surfers by looking further into the views based on “sex appeal”, how female surfers are overly sexualized and the different ways that female surfers are views with the stereotypes that are put upon them.
As a female surfer myself, I have been involved in the surfing culture for about 10 years now. I have witnessed and experienced some of the stereotypes that are attached to female surfers and athletes as well as a lot of how the culture has grown throughout the years and how the media has a assive impact on the sport. Throughout history, surfing has primarily been a male dominated sport and although strides have been made to make female surfers more prevalent, it has been difficult because of the many assumptions made about female surfers and about the ways that the media portrays them to be.
One of the first major factors that women are not taken as seriously is because a lot of the time female surfers, professional or not, are popularly classified under specific stereotypes. There is a very straightforward popular view of female surfers and then these views tend to extend into ifferent categories, as spoken by several different scholars. While mixing the popular and the scholarly, different stereotypes will arise, but in the end a lot of the views come down to the same thing; That female surfers are tall, skinny, have Sunkist skin, blonde hair and are models who are just there to look pretty.
Its obvious this is not the case, but nonetheless, it has made it difficult for female surfers to ever get an edge in surfing culture. I would first like to look at a similarity that came across several scholarly articles before moving on to more of the popular views, and that was the fact hat the ocean, as hard core of a place it is, is meant for males as a place to prove their masculinity.
In one journal talking about the ocean and surfing, LA Wenner states, “Naturally, that was a place for boys to act out being real men. (Wenner, 1995) He goes on to explain how the ocean is a really hardcore place, a place where guys ride these huge waves and get worked into the reefs, held under massive white walls of water for over six minutes and where people have died trying. From the start, this is undermining the talents and abilities of females in surfing as well as many other athletics. This gives females an automatic disadvantage in the water, as people will not take them as seriously.
There are many historic views of surfing being a male dominated sport and all the notions about “manhood” versus the “little surfer girls”, I have personally been subjected to these views. For example, a day in Florida, 10 foot waves easy, and hundreds of surfers on sight. Who do I see in the waves and on the beach? Well, obviously there were both guy and girl surfers everywhere. As I headed towards the surf I was stopped by a group of guy surfers.
A few looks were given and one guy looked t me and said “aye little girl the waves are pretty rough out there, sure you can handle it with all of us out there. At that moment I realized that even as a chill surfer I was still subjected to the the thoughts that being out in the big waves is no place for a chick. Yet I casually looked at this guy and said, “you sure you can handle it” and I walked off. To go further will the thoughts of male domination in the water, in some places around the world, it is taken even more seriously to a point where females can be condemned by their communities if they are seen surfing.
For example, in a conservative location in Bangladesh, women are indeed condemned for going to the beaches and for surfing because it is said that it isn’t there place and it is inappropriate to have them there with all the males. This is a much more extreme case, but it still helps to show how women all over the world are looked at differently when they enter the surfing culture. Besides the views of this male dominated world, the more obvious female stereotypes still exist and it is key to show how prevalent they are and how the media has always exemplified them.
To bring it up again a lot of the stereotypical views of kinny, blonde, Sunkist skin has lead a majority of people to see surfers (as well as many female athletes) for having sex appeal and therefore a lack of talent. In an article that was comparing the ways that people viewed female athletes. While talking about two different athletes, Mia Hamm and Anna Kournikova, Elizabeth Daniels states, “Media coverage of these two athletes typifies two opposing ways in which female athletes are portrayed in media-performance-focused or sexualized. (Daniels, 2012)
After viewing Mia Hamm in in an action photo of her scoring a goal, the people involved in the xperiment said that she was “sporty”, “powerful” and “talented” and how they “admired her athleticism. ” On the other hand, when the participants saw a photo of Anna Kournikova, an athlete who is more well known for her attractiveness gained more attention in the media because of it and people perceived her to be “less talented, less aggressive, and less heroic. ” (Daniels, 2012). After reading through this I immediately thought of Anna Blanchard.
As a truly incredible surfer, who is argued to be one of the best, is also viewed as one of the worlds most sexualized surfers. Type ‘Alana’ into the worlds largest search engine and wait for it to suggest a search, and the first result will be ‘Alana Blanchard. ‘ The next will be ‘Alana Blanchard Bikinis’. ” (Melekian, 2014). Out of curiosity I| decided to search Alana Blanchard in google and then when to images just to see what happened since I had been talking about action performance against sexualized images.
After doing the search I wasn’t surprised to see the types of photos I saw. The top results had nothing to do with all the competitions she has been in or all the incredible waves she has ridden, but nstead it was all of her model type photos. This is just another great example of how female surfer’s talents are completed ignored when there “sex appeal” is what everyone wants to be talking about (see appendix to view a photo (1) of the search made for “Alana Blanchard”).
Sex appeal is a big part of the stereotypes given to female surfers, but no one seems to pay much attention to the fact that they surf just as well as their male counterparts and no one seems to care that some male surfers have also been models or had opportunities to be seen in a sexual way. Female surfers have continuously been exualized throughout the years which has obviously affected the way they are seen as an athlete, as shown by the previous examples.
In my personally experience situations where some of my friends who are also surfers and who are exceptionally pretty that have been subjected to explicit comments. For instance, some have received comments like “hey surfer babe, you gonna watch me shred some waves” and things such as “you coming to watch the real guys do it”. These particular statements can be taken to assume that the guys weren’t necessarily viewing her as a surfer like themselves, but just as a ood looking girl sitting around on the beach.
Surfers are surfers, we all paddle into the same ocean, we all use the same equipment and we are all participating in the same global culture. Why should there ever be discrimination between male and female surfers and why are we all treated differently as males and females all participate in the exact same sport? A question that I honestly believe will never truly be answered. If you think about it, stereotypes exist all across the boards and everyone produces a image of every single person they meet and every event they witness before even knowing what they or t is about.
This is basically just the way the human brain works and I believe that the views of female surfers have come down to a single thing. The fact that they are girls, and girls are just not as good as guys when it comes to athletics. This single thought and a single image that is reserved within the minds of people that classify female athletes in this way is a difficult view to change but if everyone continues to talk about women in male dominated sports especially things like surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding, maybe this can change the very one-sided views that exist about female athletes.
So either these athletes are either seen as “super hot” and only able to be good for a girl, implying that females can’t even just be good in the sport they are participating in. These two points come together to create the views that female surfers are just there to look good and the incredible talent they have is completely undermined because “sex” sells. For example, Anastasia Ashley, one of the most recognizable female surfers, but why does this recognition focus on her looks rather than her pure skill in the surf? Because again, sex sells and no one is paying attention to how incredible a lot of these surfers are.
She is a powerful surfer and has no problem kicking it at Phantoms (which is a surf break off the North Shore of Oahu) with 40 foot plus waves. For anyone to be surfing 40 foot plus waves is an incredible feat as this is in itself very dangerous. There was an article written about her riding some waves that day, but the title that was given was ridiculous and obviously Anastasia has some objections. The title of this article read, “Hot surfer Chick Catches Huge Wave Famous Butt Unscathed” (Herreria, Huff Post Women, 2015).
Female surfers have continuously been over sexualized and their talents have been undermined by the media and critics, and if you ask me, this has gone way to far. Its time to all athletes to be seen in an equal light (again see appendix to view the photo of Anastasia Ashely riding the break at Phantoms). From being over sexualized, to not being viewed as a real surfer, to only being seen as being “good for a girl”, female athletes have to live through many struggles, and this even continues into all of the tours, competitions and sponsorships of surfers.
Finally, I want to bring attention to other side of surfing, just looking at professional surfers and the job that they do everyday. Male and female surfers are competing in the same locations, for the same reason. But just as said before, female surfers aren’t taken as seriously as male surfers and that is easily shown through the sponsorships that they receive and through the prize money during world tours and competitions. Sponsorship is important in a surfer to continue their career because there are many expenses that come along with being a professional surfer.
Without sponsorship, traveling, and funding, competition expenses becomes cost prohibitive for most up and coming young surfers” (Franklin, 2009). Sponsorship is the driving force that keep professionals going and with the lack of sponsorship offered for female professional surfers is definitely not helping them get any edge in the competition for being viewed as an athlete just the the guys. Having a sponsorship just makes it easier for a surfer to become more well known and to participate in more tours. upport from surfing company sponsorship includes equipment, clothing, products, money coaching, wetsuits and gym memberships” (Franklin, 2009).
Its obvious that it is an important part of professional surfer’s careers. Not only is sponsorship more likely to be given to male surfers, but the sponsorship also directly correlates with prize money from tours, which is exponentially lower than that provided for male professional surfers. Its obvious that male surfing events are more popular and receive more attention that the same events that the females get to participate in.
Each of the nine events in the women’s WCT carries a first prize of ? 5,500, with a total purse of ? 35,750. A pot of cash not to be sniffed at you might say – yet the men’s WCT is divided into 12 events, each with prizes totaling ? 150,000 and a first prize of ? 16,500″ (Toms, 2005). Its surprising to see the huge difference within is this sport just because of gender. It is much easier for male surfers to get ahead when they have plenty of money to keep them going. So hopefully one day, female surfers will be able to be considered on the same skill level as the male surfers.
Historically, surfing has been a male dominated sport where females have been pushed aside and who have always been struggling to rise up in this culture. Strides have been made though and they will continue to be made until we reach equality in this sport, where men and women are seen to be great surfers because they are all athletes, prize money is the same for both, coed competitions, and less sexualizing of female surfers. Just like in any other social and media driven issue, it will take time to bring female surfers to the same levels as their male counterparts, not in skill, but in recognition.