I’m a longboarder, so quite often I find myself surrounded in the water by, well, umm, older gents. And it’s interesting because they often tend to get all paternal on me!
I don’t know if there’s something about me in particular that lends people towards a kind of encouraging protectiveness, but when I paddle out, I often end up with several new dads. They give me advice, call me into waves and, in one particularly excessive display, PUSH MY BOARD INTO WAVES THAT I’M MORE THAN CAPABLE OF PADDLING INTO ON MY OWN! Which is nice. I suppose. Kind of. In theory.
I mean, it’s nice that they’re so encouraging. But what would be even nicer would be if it didn’t feel so patronising.
For all the times that I’ve seen women called into waves by men, I can’t really recall as many occasions that I’ve seen them do the same to another guy (except for one crazy French guy who sings What A Wonderful World at the top of his voice as he paddles out, but I think we can leave him out of the equation...).
“Come on girl!”
Many men appear to still be trying to negotiate ways to include women in the surf. They seem to find it hard to fit us in to their already established categories that they use to understand other men, so they’re trying to sort out how to understand and include women in other ways. Heaven forbid just treating them the same!
For the older guys, it seems that this can be especially hard as they have pretty set ideas about what women can and cannot, should and should not be doing, so I understand that it’s a challenge. I try to understand anyway. And I’m not making excuses for the behaviour that I’m describing – it’s patronising, annoying and often it’s degrading as well - but I can also see that a lot of the time the dudes get so stoked that women are there that they can over-compensate.
I’m patient and I smile.