The Surfer “Not Hot Enough For Sponsorship”

"If you don’t look like a model, you end up without a sponsor, which is what happened to me"

Silvana Lima, you know the one? Peerless in the air, very fiery, very friendly, very small, maybe five feet tall at a push; a real pocket rocket, firecracker, live-wire, spark plug, jump lead, hairdryer in the bathtub, electrical fire etc. Top 5 every year from ’07 to ’11 (twice world no. 2), injured in 2012, given an injury wildcard for 2013 but failed to re-qualify.

At some point — when she got injured? When she dropped off tour? — she was let go by longtime sponsor Billabong. Undeterred, she stormed (did I mention she was Brazilian?) through the QS in 2014, funding her campaign by breeding French bulldogs, and looked like a potential title threat at the start of the 2015 CT season. She got a few ten-point rides, also got a few sponsors, although struggled in the second half of the year and is now back on the QS.

Clearly we see some correlation here between results and sponsorship, and if she’d remained on tour the whole time she’d likely have remained on the Billabong roster. But that doesn’t change the fact that if she were, as she puts it, a “babe”, she would also likely have remained on the Billabong roster, loss of tour status notwithstanding. “Not considered hot enough for sponsorship,” reads the title of the interview she did recently with the BBC (see below). True? Sort of.

“I’m a surfer, a professional one,” says Lima. “The surf-wear brands, when it comes to women, they want both models and surfers.” The thing about being a professional surfer, though, is that the principal purpose of your existence is to cause a slight increase in the sale of boardshorts/bikinis/wetsuits/energy drinks/razor blades/yoga pants etc. And while the magnitude of this increase is to an extent determined by ability level, it would be more apt to say it’s determined by image, of which ability level forms a part. Winning heats is rarely enough; you must win them stylishly, or lose them stylishly, or not surf heats at all because a contest jersey is a straight jacket in which your creative genius is suffocated. Or, you must be sexy. But you must be something. You must have — is the bile rising up your throat yet? — a unique selling point.

At this point some canny cunt usually remarks that male surfers who lack sex appeal are also at a disadvantage. And he is right, but not as right as he thinks he is. If a sexy male surfer is — I can hear you retching! — marketable, then a sexy female surfer is doubly marketable. A quick male/female comparison of some standard surf marketing material will confirm this. Likewise, an unsexy female surfer must somehow compensate twice as much as her unsexy male counterpart — perhaps with ability, perhaps with personality, preferably with some combination of the two.

Perhaps, for instance, with a backstory about breeding French bulldogs because she’s not hot enough to be sponsored. I for one am going to buy a boxful of Vult Cosmética products at the earliest opportunity, keeping half for myself and giving the other half as a present to my mistress, who breeds Irish terriers.

— Norm Bellingdon


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