Monday, February 23, 2015

The future is here and.... nooooooooo!

So, today, for the first time ever, I saw someone out in the lineup PULL THEIR iPHONE OUT OF THEIR BOARDSHORTS AND CHECK THEIR MESSAGES! Not voicemail, but texts or emails or social media or the swell report or something.

Say what now?

He never took a photo, never took a call, but while I was out there I saw him check his phone a few times and it totally bummed me out.

I'm guessing that people using their mobiles in the water is going to increasingly become a thing, and I've been sadly trying to comes to some kind of terms with it for a while because one of the things that I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really love about surfing is that it's forced time away from that stuff. Like flying where you can could just sit back and do other things because you can't couldn't check your emails. It's like when I go for an after-work walk and don't take my phone unless I want to take pictures. I have a separate iPod so I can have tunes without my phone for that very reason.

I love that when I paddle out it's just people and the sea (and Go-pros now I guess). People sitting quietly alone or with others. Or (if I'm around) people talking and laughing with friend with no distractions other than waves or a turtle or a bird or (again, if I'm around) a cool-looking cloud. The idea that folk will have their heads down checking messages or posting to Instagram or doing anything that isn't paying attention to the incredible beauty and thrill of being in the sea and under the sky is so heinous that it makes me feel SAD IN MY HEART.

When I saw this guy, head down, scrolling through his screen I wanted to paddle over and say, 'Sir, I'm judging you right now. Judging. You.' Because I was. But I didn't. I just silently judged him, emitted one of those internal, existential screams that tear at your soul every now and again, and took a deep breath.

And then I caught a bunch of really long, fun waves and got caught on the inside by a massive set and was wrenched around by the ocean and felt awesome!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Women who run with the tides

When it comes to talking about improving the visibility, representation and opportunities for women in surfing, one of the common points made is that 'Women need more role models'. And it's a fair point. Until recently, only the most high-performance, most successful and/or prettiest female surfers were given media coverage, with others left out because they're 'not good enough' or 'too butch'. Of course, historically the people making those comments and value judgements (How does being 'butch' impact a woman's surfing abilities or value? And what does it matter if someone is 'butch' anyway?) have largely been male magazine editors and marketing directors. These days we have a lot more women in all sorts of roles in surf media and representations of women have improved, all of which is awesome, but there is still an alarming emphasis on youth, beauty and sex appeal.

For younger women I think the high-performance, everyone's-gorgeous, role-model issue remains an especially important area of concern, so those conversations and changes need to continue. But for women who are older the whole role model thing is interesting in a different way because there is an assumption that most people find role models in high-performance or competitive surfing, which isn't always true.When I talk to my friends about surfing aspirations or improvements, they rarely refer to professional surfers. In fact, almost never. Instead, they refer to women from their own community, who manage to surf as well as have a career, a relationship and/or kids. Body image and fashion tend to make way for other issues, and often it is the older, more experienced women that get mentioned as models (or not) of how things can be done - of what to aspire to. 

All of this is (as ever) a long way of coming to a film I have been wanting to share here for a long time, 'Women Who Run With the Tides', by Michelle Shearer. And I apologise for not posting it earlier because it's an important film and a really great one as well.  


This short film was shot in Lennox Head, Australia, just down the road from my home digs in Suffolk Park. It focuses on three women - Marg, 64, Sally, 58 and Carol, 50 - who have different surfing histories, ability levels and life situations, but who all share a passion for being in the sea as often as possible. These are the kinds of stories that are common when it comes to tales about men. These stories are important in local, regional and national understandings of surfing, because they contribute to how we remember what happened, who was participating, and what things were like at any one time, but they also have resonance in representing what is possible for various people. As men from surfing's boom period of the 1950s and 60s have aged, their stories have continued to be represented, thus showing it is possible to surf past youth, into middle-age and beyond. But as women struggle to have their most successful surfers make it into the media, older, less skilled women have had no space at all! And this does have repercussions. One friend of mine who is in her 50s told me that she worries about getting older because she becomes increasingly invisible in the surf. The older guys get positioned as 'local legends' with space made for them to get waves. Not always, but it certainly happens. Yet women don't seem to be treated the same way. This friend has been surfing her home break for over 20 years, but these days she's yelled at and dropped in on by young men just arrived to town - men who surf with far less skill and grace, and with much less knowledge of the break itself. 

Michelle's film is a beautiful example of how significant ordinary, everyday role models are for people and for our culture, and after this film was release I know many women had conversations about the women in their community who they look up to. In my own surfing life, I'm really lucky because I have many women I can look up to in the surf. Some of them are friends of mine, some of them I just know them from the surf, but they all provide an example of what it might look like for me to keep surfing as I age. Not only that it is possible to do so, but the compromises I might make, the ways I might be able to continue contributing to my surfing community, and how I might be able to continue doing that in my own style and on my own terms. 

Legends. 

The 'Women Who Run With the Tides' Fcebook page has info on upcoming screenings as well as a way to contact Michelle if you would like.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

This girl surfs

My clever friend, Holly, showed me this short film yesterday. From the Youtube post:
Oumaima Erhali is a 17-year-old Moroccan woman determined to surf. She’s part of a generation pushing boundaries in a country where many believe a surfboard is no place for a young Muslim woman. But Oumaima won’t let stereotypes hold her back from the sport she loves or the life she wants to lead.




Monday, January 19, 2015

The boy's journey

If you know anything about surf blogs, then you know that the best of all of them is The Endless Bummer NY. Toddy (and co.'s) view of surfing has taught me a lot about what surfing is, how it fits into our sense of self, and where it can be found in our everyday lives.

While he always seems to have some awesome surf project or other on the go, Toddy's latest film is something quite close to home - teaching his son about surfing. This isn't just a 'how to surf' education, but is about the ways of seeing the world that come with a relationship to surfing culture, experiences, history, technology, places and people. As I watch my niece grow into surfing through her own love of the beach and waves as well as watching and copying me, I've been intrigued to see what she adopts and how my own approaches to surfing are absorbed into shaping her own. It's a pretty awesome thing to weave into your relationship with the kids in your life, that's for sure.



As Toddy explains:
Here at the Endless Bummer New York No Surf Surf Blog of Champions we try to constantly innovate, periodically evolvate and even haphazardly percolate. In our constant search for new ways to talk about whatever it is we like to talk about, we've noticed there are few people talking about whatever it is we like to talk about, namely, not surfing. Or rather, and more precisely, the subtle things that happen in and around, before and after and leading up to the act of surfing. This includes, of course, the formative years, for both children and adults, that shape and codify the personal definition of what it means to be a surfer. In this, we endeavor to have a frank conversation, to set things straight, if you will. Really maybe all we're doing is setting things curvy, but we're obviously fine with that too.
To fund this project, Toddy and Robinson have a Kickstarter campaign running. At $8000, the financial goal is modest, especially considering the excellent film that I know they will make. If you want to contribute - and I encourage you to - you can find out more here.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Duke's Day

If you live in Sydney are have no plans over the next couple of days, you might like to check out the Duke's Day centenary celebrations of Duke Kahanamoku's surfing demonstration at Freshwater.


There are a bunch of events and talks on, and I'm pretty stoked to be part of it too. As per usual, I'm on a panel that is called The Women of Surfing and Swimming (as though every other panel is about men!), but there are some cool women participating, so I'm looking forward to hearing what they have to say. I also get to talk with Jemma Piggott, Nick Carroll and Phil Jarratt about surfer and water woman, Isabel Letham, which is pretty exciting. I've talked about how awesome Isabel is on this blog before, but I'm looking forward to learning loads more about her from Jemma, whose passion for Isabel's legacy is unparalleled.

Anyway, if you're there and you see me, please come and say hello!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Looking at the east coast from the west

So tomorrow I fly west to my east coast, subtropical roots, where I'll be spending christmas and new year and a little more too. I've been away from my NZ home more often that I've been here these past two months, so it's weird to be leaving again, and it also feels a little... weird. As always when I move somewhere new, the word 'home' starts to shift and find new applications, and today I confused a friend when I used 'home' to describe first Byron Bay and then Raglan, almost in the same sentence. I'm not even sure I mean the same thing when I use it for each place - Byron is my heart and bones, but Raglan is where I live and is being very kind to me. I feel a bit bad skipping out on it now just as the holidays arrive. 

Home I go. Home I leave.

But these last few days, Raglan has really turned it on, as if to show me what I'm about to miss here too. Today was stunning with blue skies, sunshine and a cool breeze. And tonight, to top it off, it put on one of it's never-get-less-breath-taking sunsets.


See you in 2015, Aotearoa.

x


Thursday, December 18, 2014

This is the best clip of women's surfing I've ever seen

Check out this beautiful clip by Morgan Maassen of Stephanie Gilmore surfing in France. It's gorgeous.

Stephanie from Morgan Maassen on Vimeo.

Watching this, my first thought was, 'What the hell was Roxy thinking in that stupid sexualised clip of Stephanie they made to promote the 2013 Roxy Pro in Biarritz?' I know the controversy is long past now, but when I see footage like this of the stylish, strong, smooth, female approach Steph Gilmore takes to waves, it really blows me away that Roxy didn't centralise it.

Anyway, I headed this post by saying this is the best clip of women's surfing I've ever seen, so I guess I better qualify why.

1. It focuses on Stephanie's surfing, which Morgan Maassen has done in his past clips of her as well. But this one is different because...

2. It addresses that thing people say about women's surfing being sexy and beautiful and athletic. You know, the 'women can be strong AND beautiful' thing. Sure, whatever. Usually they (Marketers and media) say this to justify copious footage and photos of women in bikinis (e.g. the Roxy clip), and usually it makes me roll my eyes. Because, who cares if they're sexy? But this clip shows that beauty and, more importantly, good surfing shines through - even with a full wetsuit.

3. It shows Steph both in comp and free surfing modes, which is pretty cool and an interesting intersection that is not - as far as I've seen - so common in clips about women who are on the tour. And it does this without including 'lifestyle' aspects (see #1).

4. It's totally beautiful. Like totally. Those sunset waves at the end are stunning.

(If you can think of more reasons, please add them below.)