I’m a woman, hear me roar!
With International Cleavage Day round the corner (next Monday!), we at Surf Europe figured it’d be a good time to turn our thoughts to sex in women’s surfing.
With International Cleavage Day round the corner (next Monday!), we at Surf Europe figured it’d be a good time to turn our thoughts to sex in women’s surfing. After all, everyone already knows the girls are ripping. But what about all the sex? So much of it! Is it good? Is it bad? Such a touchy subject!
While some reckon sex has helped raise the profile of women’s surfing and subsequently performance levels too, others think its higher performance levels that have raised the profile of sex… So complicated! Could the two be linked?
With that in mind, here’s a quick look back at some of those female athletes who have at some point flirted for the cameras.
Age: 48 years old
From: East London, South Africa
Frustrated at the lack of love from the surf industry and mainstream media, the reigning world champ posed nude for Playboy magazine. Driving the surfing world into a frenzy of mixed emotions, it became the magazine’s first sell-out ever.
For those that don’t remember, let’s take a minute to put Botha’s outrageous act into context. Born and raised in South Africa, Wendy Botha grew up surfing the sharky waters of East London. In spite of her slight stature, she built a reputation for powerful moves and had no qualms charging the likes of Sunset. As one of surfing’s original tomboys, she repeatedly claimed she could surf as good as a lot of the guys on tour despite them telling her otherwise. But it was the year she moved to Australia, in 1989, that Wendy Botha achieved unprecedented competitive success, claiming an astounding seven events in one year (a record that still stands today) and her second world title. Having adopted Australian citizenship in the process (to avoid travel restrictions from South Africa’s apartheid era), she also became Australia’s first female champion that year. Yet still no love!
As for the reaction at the time, the stunt is reported to have shocked most females but rather predictably delighted the males. Botha herself is quoted as saying, “The girls on tour were all a little shocked. The guys all think its unreal!" And having made her statement, she retired one year later.
From: Gold Coast, Australia
With a record-breaking 5 world titles to her name, Steph Gilmore stands as one of surfing’s greatest ambassadors. Come on, who doesn’t love Steph? Yet last year all hell broke loose when the gorgeous blond starred in a controversial over-sexed Roxy ad, which some claimed to set back gender equality in sport by 40 years!
Clocking over an impressive two million views on Youtube, the video clip sparked more worldwide mainstream press than the whole history of surfing put together. Likened to a lingerie ad (which of course it was seeing as Roxy specialise in making bikinis), the campaign’s aim was two-fold: to announce the signing of Gilmore to the new Roxy team and promote the Roxy Pro Biarritz women’s world tour leg. Purposefully provocative, the ad contained no surf action but did squeeze twelve shots of the champs behind into 1 minute and 46 seconds.
Had the girls gone on to blow up at the event, Roxy may well have pulled it off. But in an unfortunate turn of events it all went (if you’ll pardon the expression) tits up when the event had to be re-scheduled due to lack of swell (a result of the event running mid-summer to maximise exposure rather than athletic performance).
But what was Gilmore’s take on it all? In an interview with the Courier Mail she said, “When girls embrace their femininity and sexuality, it’s not taking away from their power and athleticism at all; they’re combining the two sides, and that’s a very powerful combination for a girl to have."
But for someone who admits to having often been treated as a tomboy, people might ask who exactly gets to define femininity? Or for that matter that fine invisible line between too sexy and not bloody sexy enough? Having already posed nude for ESPN in 2011, Gilmore struggled desperately to see what all the fuss was about.
In hindsight, however, it seems much of the hoo-ha stemmed from people expecting the campaign to be a straight-forward ad for a sporting event, uncomfortable at the idea of blurring the divide between sport, fashion and sex. But hold on a minute, isn’t that the surfing “lifestyle" we all bought into since day one?
Not exactly the most extravagant photo shoot you’ve ever seen, but one that paid plenty mainstream exposure.
From: Kauai, Hawaii
Best quote: “My butt is my best asset"
Swimwear designer, girlfriend to world junior champ Jack Freestone, WCT competitor, the saucy Kauain bombshell has been in the modelling game longest, starting her career at the ripe age of 15.
Surfing by its nature not necessarily lending itself to most traditional ‘feminine’ forms of woman, she’s considered by many to be the first female surfer to have transcended the surfing tomboy stereotype.
Notorious for her skimpy bikinis and duckdives, Alana’s stratospheric rise in popularity over the last few years owes itself to two main factors: mainstream press (voted the ‘Sexiest woman in sport’ by Men’s Health magazine in 2011 and featuring in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition in 2013) and some mean social media skills. Yes, with close to 900,000 followers on Instagram (half of whom are reported to live in North Africa), Alana tops the social media surfing charts by a long shot.
However, in contrast to others, when pressed by Surfline on whether she thought skimpy bikinis actually lifted her profile in surfing, she prefers to play cautious.
“I don't know. Girl surfers are always in bikinis. I guess it just depends on how you wear them and who you are. I'm sure I got a little more attention when I was younger, but if you look around pretty much all the girls are wearing tiny bikinis now…. I think as a girl it's hard to be in this industry where they want you to look a certain way."
And while Alana’s slipped on-and-off tour a handful of times in the last five or so years, she remains the sport’s undisputed reigning pinup girl. In fact since 2013 she now boasts her own Internet show on Network A, Surfer Girl (by the same name of the 1995 documentary featuring Wendy Botha).
Anastasia’s signature booty-shaking has earned her a mighty six and half million hits!
From: Los Angeles, California
Intriguing fact: Pamela Anderson used to date Anastasia's dad
The most recent pro to feature in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, Anastasia Ashley is another female surfer to be highly skilled in the art form of looking good and charging the gnarl. Known to surf Pipe and Waimea where she spent a large part of her childhood, the 27 year old also doesn’t mind a PR stunt or two.
Remember when she twerked the US Open? The girl knows how to inject fun into otherwise tedious warm-up routines! And although she gets extra brownie points for being the sexiest vegetarian alive, the jury is still out on whether Anastasia has helped the sport of women’s surfing to be taken more seriously.
With no boundary blurring in this edit, Maya's most recent fashion shoot appeared to disturb few.
Age: 26 years old
From: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Another female pro surfer to have posed nude for ESPN’s Body Issue, Brazilian big wave charger Maya Gabeira is lucky to be alive. But not because she took her clothes off. In 2011 she was knocked unconscious after hitting the reef at Teahupoo, and then nearly drowned again at Nazaré last November. The unfortunate incident in Portugal did however earn the 5-time Billabong XXL winner further mainstream interest in the form of a full-feature and scantily-clad fashion shoot in GQ Brazil.
In contrast to other female pros, the Brazilian big wave charger appeared to come under little criticism for the shoot (don’t all Brazilians walk around in g-strings anyway?). Having said that, Laird Hamilton had already given her a verbal dressing down for being out of her depth, claiming Maya had no business surfing such big waves at Nazaré.
From: Gold Coast, Australia
Giving an interview on Australian national television in which she admitted to using sex appeal to further her pro surf career, Australian teen sensation Ellie-Jean Coffey counts as the most recent to broach the issue of sex in surfing. As the youngest pro female surfer to speak out on the matter, mums worldwide despaired at the 19-year-olds utterings.While one dude on SE.com. simply commented “Not even sexy".
Age: 25 years old
With legs up to her armpits and a backside to boot, rumour has it no Miss Reef has ever actually set foot on a surfboard, and yet the surf brand’s ad campaigns have successfully brainwashed surfing into believing every female surfer should look like one!
Originally inspired by the notoriously beautiful women of South America and targeted at a male dominated market, their first ads were initially turned down by surf magazines for their controversial portrayal of femininity. But money talks, and ads finally ran! And to this today she remains a global icon of the surfing community despite never having moved from her sun-lounger.
From: Huntington Beach, California
With athletes being sponsored at ever-younger ages, the California former world champ (who’s refused sponsorship throughout her own career) argues that brands are able to influence self-sexualization without much resistance. In her mind “The female surfing image is created by sponsors, socialized into young surfers and then sold as ‘authentic’."
Ever heard girls say something along the lines of “I’m just doing what I do" or “Just wearing what I wear"? Well, it turns out they’re not! Yep, we know, it’s confusing but then so was The Matrix.
Next week: it’s the men’s turn!