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.)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Don't drop in and call it sharing

Today was my third surf back after over two months out of the water. Say what? A combination of weather and travel has kept me out of the surf, and I've been going nuts. But the last few days have offered up waves and no wind, so I've been making the most of it all.

Today I paddled out to some lovely, glassy beachies. I'll usually take a point break every time, but some of my favourite surfs in NZ have been at this beach, so I feel a fair bit of affection for it. In my mind it's always raining and green, which has much to do with the kinds of winds and weather conditions that shape the conditions. So I made my way down to the black sand and along the shore to some lefts that seemed pretty consistent.

There were only a few people out at first and it was lovely. The waves were far from amazing, but they were fun and they were there. After a while, more people arrived and the competition stepped up. Everyone was playing the inside game where the usual rules of the lineup get put aside in favour of hassling and positioning. There were plenty of waves, but you get one or two crew doing this, and it's game on. It wasn't heavy, but it was happening. Suddenly, I found it much harder to get waves, which I tend to attribute to being the only chick, but it's hard to know, really. I decided to be patient and wait it all out - I'd had a bunch of waves and it was easy for me to get the smaller ones on my longboard anyway - but started to get a bit frustrated with the constant stream of dudes going straight to my inside and taking the next wave. Then one came my way, so I took it. There was a guy right next to me on my outside who went for it too, but I was pleased that he finally pulled off. But as I got up, there was another guy on my inside, who I knew had just that moment paddled out, so I decided to disregard him. But he called out to me,

'Stay on!'

'Oh, I am.'

'Keep going!'

'Don't tell me what to do!'

And then he sped up right next to me reaching his hand out and yells,

'High five!'

'Are you joking? No!'

I was so pissed off. I get it - he was being friendly etc - but I didn't see him be so friendly like that to any of the guys out there. He did that because I'm a woman and that meant something to him - either he wanted to meet me or he thought I wasn't going to make it or something. But I didn't want to share that wave with whoever he was. I didn't want to feel him pushing up behind my board on the wave. I didn't want him to try and touch me. And sure, I'm sensitive to this stuff, but you know what? Just don't, dude.

So I ignored him and stayed on the wave, but couldn't turn back into the pocket because he was there. And I know it didn't matter because I was getting waves enough, but I knew by then it had turned into a minor hassle-fest no matter where you sat and I just didn't feel like being singled out as someone who was easy to take waves from or to 'share' them with. As it turned out, those guys took off on my inside on every wave I got after that, and I saw them talking and smirking at me after, like I'd been a real bitch about it. But I don't have to be friendly to some guy because he wanted to engage with me. I mean, he could have just talked to me, which plenty of other guys out there were doing without making me feel singled out. They just talked to me and let me get waves without needing to be a part of that.

It's nice that dudes want to be part of women surfing out in the water, but that doesn't mean they get to make women feel uncomfortable, which this guy really did. He made me feel singled out and different and accessible and I'm sure he didn't mean any of that, but that was the effect. I considered going and explaining to him why I reacted the way I did, but since he'd already made me feel so uncomfortable, it felt risky and I didn't. I guess he's not my problem anyway.

So I sat away from that guy and picked off the wide ones, which was frustrating really because then avoiding him totally defined my waves and sure, that was my choice, but I didn't want to deal with whatever way the situation was going to go - I didn't really know anyone out there so I was on my own in negotiating it. Slowly I made my way back to the inside and got a bunch more and had a really nice surf in the green water and the gentle rain.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Portland, Oregon

Blogging has been this crazy thing in my life. It has led me places and introduced me to people I would never have otherwise met. It has always been more than an online space, weaving its way into my day to day life and relationships. Amongst others, over time I've met Jamie, Felix, Neil and Mick (you can find Mick over here too), who have become people I count as friends and who have been incredibly supportive and inspiring, and there are a bunch of other bloggers and Instagrammers, who I hope to get to visit some time. (Y'all have been warned! Haha.)

At the moment, I'm in Portland and was lucky enough to meet Kara Sparkman, who is currently involved in the She and the Sea project in the Pacific Northwest. We met because I contacted her about one of her beautiful prints, but was stoked when we realised that she was going to be at home in Portland while I was here for a few days. Yesterday we met for coffee, and it turned out that we had a lot in common in terms of ideas and aspirations and projects, so we talked non-stop for several hours.

And then, Kara - this woman who I have only known through her blog and some emails, gifted me the framed original of the print I'd asked about (note: Kara made that gorgeous frame herself). Can you believe that! I was blown away.

I feel really lucky that I've come to know such kind and generous people over time, and still, after all these years, I can't believe the unexpected joys and people that blogging continues to bring to my life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Undress: For if you get carpark changing anxiety (I don't).

One of the ongoing embarrassments that my surfing buddies endure, is the lack of concern I have about modesty when I get changed in the carpark pre- and post- surf. I'm sure you think you know how much I don't care, but you really don't. I feel like making a fuss draws more attention that just changing and risking the fact that someone might see parts of your body for a moment. But I can see why my friends might tire of seeing me. Haha. My poor friend Izzy is so used to/exasperated by my needless boob and bum flashing that she has pointed me to this new possibility: The Undress.

So, I'm not saying this isn't a great idea - I mean they really have thought of everything and it's pretty smart! - but I am saying it's sort of mental. How chuffed is April though. Also, people are clearly super stoked on this idea because while they aimed to raise $22,000 and they already have $182,627!! Holy crap!

I'm not chucking in for their Kickstarter campaign because I'm a bit Kickstarter-ed out right now, and clearly they don't need me anyway, but if you're keen and want to get one as part of the deal, you can find out more here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stop pushing me, already!

So, a few weeks ago, my friend Ollie came and stayed. Ol and I have never lived in the same town at the same time, but we've managed to catch up in a bunch of places over the years - in Byron, in Sydney, in Brisbane, in San Francisco! It was so great having him here.

Sadly, the surf wasn't really doing much that was tempting while he was staying. It was big enough, but it was full and washy and moving around a lot. Nonetheless, we paddled out because, what else are you gonna do? Also, you gotta keep your go outs up.

It really was a mess so there were only a few others out - maybe six. One guy on a fat, red shortboard was getting some waves, but the pickings were otherwise slim. I wasn't so fussed, so I sat wide and paddled for the odd wave, but the faces were doubling up in that not good way, so I wasn't getting on them. I got one, but I was happy just to be out there and cruise.

But after a while, the guy on the red board paddled over and started talking.

'That's a good looking board. Is that fabric in the nose?' My board gets a surprising amount of attention over here. Almost every time I surf someone comments on it, or walks over in the carpark to pick it up. I should tell Gary to set up shop!

'Yeah, yeah it is. The shaper had it spare so put it in there. It turned out to look really nice, huh.'

'Yeah, it's really blue. Like your eyes.'

'Oh. Yeah. Like my eyes. Yeah. Cause they're blue.' To be fair, my eyes are very, very blue, which gets a lot of comment and I know can be disarming.

'Yeah. And like the words on your wetsuit.' He meant the colour of the branding spread across my chest, which he helpfully pointed to as he spoke.

'Um, yeah. That's right, that's blue too.' 

At this point, having had him point at my boobs, it just felt awkward. So we just sat there until he re-found his words.

'Go for this wave', he suggested.

'Well, there's already someone on it, so I probably won't.' My tolerance for strangers telling me which waves to get is conditional on many factors. Usually things like, do I want that wave. At this point, all things considered, my tolerance was at zero. More awkward silence ensured. Then...

'Go for this one.'

'Yep. Okay. I'll go for this one.' I knew it wasn't really a wave - it wasn't going to turn into anything, let alone break - but I thought it would be a good chance to get away from him so I turned and started paddling. As I did I saw him move around behind me - between me and the wave - to my other side to come alongside me. I figured what he was going to do next and the indignation of the moment filled my chest. Best to get away from him, despite the fact that he was lining up to...


Which he promptly attempted to do. He pushed my board into the wave. Well, he tried to anyway. The wave face was so full that there was no chance, so his attempts failed, but I just kept paddling in that direction to get as far away from the situation as possible. I wasn't pissed off at him. Mostly I found it funny because this kind of thing has happened to me before and has become a standing joke amongst some of my friends who regularly crack themselves up by asking me if I'd like a push, so it's not like I haven't made my peace with this particular form of being patronised in the surf. I kind of wish those friends had been there to see it, actually.

I don't know what he was thinking when he decided to push my board. I'm hardly world class, but I can surf and I can get my own waves and I can look after myself in the breaks I paddle out into and I don't need a push. But maybe he thought I was shit and needed help? Maybe he was trying to be supportive and gets really stoked on chicks in the water and this was his way of being encouraging? Maybe he's just awkward and that's how he rolls? Maybe he's just a dick? Whatever the reason, I really wish he hadn't pushed my board. Like, really.

So in case I haven't been clear before, let me be clear now:

Men and women of the surfing world! Don't give strangers a push into a wave unless you have established they would like that kind of assistance. Because they might be happy just cruising in the water, in which case leave them alone. Or they might really appreciate that help, in which case, awesome! But making awkward conversation with a stranger is really not enough to go on in making the decision to push her board into a wave she didn't actually want to go for anyway.

Ol, of course, found it funny. It IS funny. I mean... me!  But I was pleased to have someone else there to witness the moment because sometimes I'm sure people think I'm making this stuff up.

Friday, October 24, 2014

'Away', by Elisa Bates

I love any film about surfing that is different - that challenge the stereotypes and mainstream representations of what surfing is, what is looks like and who does it. I like these films because they call into question who gets to tell the stories of surfing. For so long, it's been those who are best at it, those for whom surfing is life, rather than part of life, those who are the most self-interested, those who see their place in history as significant, those who are trying to make money from it. This is all fine, but it means that our surfing stories have been mostly high performance, glamorous, spectacular, and let's face it, hyper-masculine. Again, that's cool, but it's given us a pretty limited representation of the majority of surfing experiences.

So when I saw this surf film, Away, come up on my social media feed this morning, I was pretty thrilled.

Away, by Elisa Bates is a short film about three women who surf in New York - Katarina Del Mar, Jee Mee Kim and Mary Leonard. These women talk about their passion and drive for surfing, how they even came to surfing, and how the idea of surfing in a city like New York - to be able to access nature and wildness in a place that is so abundantly human and cultural - is pretty cool. Such stories are so interesting to me. As someone who grew up living next door to a white-sand, warm water beach, being in the ocean seems so fundamental. The only weird thing was that I didn't surf until so much later in my life. My not surfing is almost the negative of their relationships to surfing - it was the culture and the 1980s and 90s craziness that kept me disinterested. Getting to the sea was always easy for me - basically I walked out my back gate and then another 200 metres and I was there.

But, as I've discovered in my own years of city living, getting to the coast when you are constrained by traffic, work commitments, relationships, and distance is a whole other story. I've come to admire and understand the dedication and organisation that goes into making surfing a regular part of your life. And that's in Australia. In this film I see the added complication of icy, snow-filled winter days - negotiating an ice-covered footpath in booties - something I've never had to consider! The image of Jee Mee Kim inching her way across the ice on her feet, and on her bum, will stay with me for some time yet.

These things interrupt the possibility that you could even consider surfing. Like I said, I didn't consider it til so much later in my life because the blokey aggressive culture itself kept me from imagining surfing as a possibility. But for the surfers in this film, there is so much more than that, so that they have ended up committed to surfing is amazing to me. For Katrina Del Mar, after making a fictional film about girl surf gangs, she got interested and came to grow into her name. Jee Mee Kim explains that surfing became so important to her, so frustratingly constant in her mind, that she "went to therapy because of surfing". Mary Leonard, had to put up with her mother trying to guilt her about surfing when she should be with her kids, finally coming to understand that "I get it. Surfing is like your golf", using her previous acceptance of another male-dominated form of time-out to make sense of her daughter's right to independence.

That the key surfers in Away are women seems incidental to this film actually. I mean, it feels like a film about surfers in New York not women surfers in New York. The way a film about male surfers in New York would never be positioned as about male surfers. I hope that makes sense? I'm so often accused of applying a gendered analysis to everything (a fair accusation) that I always want to point out when something goes beyond gender to tell a bigger tale. This tale is about surfing beyond the high gloss, super cool, magazine-worthy images we're so used to seeing, to dig down into what it is we do and love, and what is involved in that at an everyday, mundane level - the drive to the beach, the frustration of learning, the frustration of work, the commitment to family - all of which frames the moments we spend in the sea, catching waves.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I totally meant to do that.

Surfing is always a bit of an unknown. For me especially. I mean, mostly it just feels like a leap of faith that things will work out, and to be honest I still feel amazed whenever I stand up on a wave. Only because, well, it's rally amazing to be able to ride a wave like that, don't you think? And then there are those days when things work out that weren't meant to work out and you think... okay.

So, I'm thinking of a wave I got the other day. It was so nice out in the water - long, peeling, clean, 3-4 foot, and sunny. Like, wow. It was kind of crowded though, so I did my special trick of sitting wide and waiting for the big, wide sets to come through - the inconsistent sets that scuttle everyone on the inside, leaving the wave for me. It means I spend time looking like a moron sitting on my own, but it seems to work well enough. At one stage I abandoned this plan for one of the smaller sneaky inside waves that were coming through. I was keeping an eye on the horizon though as the inside wasn't a place to get caught out if you could avoid it. Which I didn't...

And so I found myself rolling upside down, clutching my board to my chest to make it under the broken wash crashing towards me. I felt it hit and catch just under the nose and lift me up, flipping and spinning me around while I held tight to my board, straining not to lose it. I emerged into the light and found flying along towards shore in the whitewater. Well, I guessed I was, because I had a face full of water and couldn't get my eyes open. But then everything smoothed out, and when I opened my eyes I realised I was perched right in the pocket, screaming down the face. What? I started laughing and clambered, gracelessly, to my feet, taking off down the face for the remaining short distance it had left to travel.

I can't imagine how that looked from shore - funny at best, formless and kooky at worst. But on a busy day a wave's a wave, so I'll take that. Also, I didn't lose my board, so that's always a win.