I took yesterday off. It was International Women’s Day so I spent the day watching some of the best female long-boarders in the world at the Noosa Festival of Surfing and caught up with old friends. For me, IWD is a day to reflect on all the things we, as women, have achieved and to think of all things we have yet to do.

Another great ride from Sierra Lerback. Pic: Noosa Festival of Surfing
Another great ride from Sierra Lerback. Pic: Noosa Festival of Surfing

Surfing, in all its forms, has long been something enjoyed by both men and women.  Indeed, the first Australian to stand up on a board was a women and our first World Champ also a woman. Flick through the pages of any mainstream surf mag however and we’re practically invisible as surfers. Female surfers are often more regarded for their bottoms than their bottom turns and many other women gracing the pages aren’t surfers at all. The industry too seems oblivious to the fact that without the spending dollars of women – who account for a whopping 80% of all dollars spent1 – the entire industry would tank.

There are the rumblings of change… In a move toward gender equity, the English Surfing Federation recently announced that 2016 English National Surfing Championships will be a gender equal event in terms of prize purse, the Californian Coastal Commission this year approached organisers of the Titans of Mavericks big wave event stating that in future years they must include women through an ‘inclusive plan’ if they want to continue the running of the annual event and, through the hard work of many women and men, in the industry (including WSL’s Deputy Commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer) the Women’s World Tour is increasingly being held in waves that showcase the true talent of our top women surfers rather than the slop of years past. It’s even being televised. Live!

Silvana Lima flying high. Pic: Chris Grant/Jettygirl
Silvana Lima flying high. Pic: Chris Grant/Jettygirl

But there is still so much to do. The 2015 Swatch Women’s Pro at Trestles is the only WSL event that has offered an equal prize purse for women. Top women surfers, like Brazil’s Silvana Lima and Australia’s Dimity Stoyle, are overlooked for much needed sponsorship dollars in favour of less able surfers because they don’t fit the mould and, if you ever scroll down and read the comment section of any big online surf site, you’ll see the glaring sexism and misogyny that still permeates all levels of surfing.

That, my friends, is why I’m a feminist. Because although we have come so far, we still have far to go.

1 Businessweek, September 2013