Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Less is more

My friend Skye reckons there's a really simple equation for going surfing - Less Is More. As in, the less you wear, the more waves you get.

It's a cracker isn't it!

That doesn't mean that she uses it to her benefit though! In fact, the Skye I know and love works right against it and always wants to know that she gets waves because she gets them, rather than someone allowing her to have them as a reward for wearing a bikini! The idea that her surfing gets negotiated through how attractive people find her makes her really angry and she rails against being sexualised and against the idea of using that sexualisation. She's pretty rad.

Another friend of mine, Ali, agrees with Skye's equation, but acts differently in response to it.

Yeah, for sure! But it's different at different breaks though. Like, it doesn't really matter at the breaks around the corner, but if I'm going to surf out at Tallows, I'll just wear my swimmers cos I get more waves that way. If letting some guy check out my bum means I get more waves then cool. If they're that shallow, then good for me. They're going to look anyway, so why shouldn't I get something out of it too!

And I reckon Ali makes a good point. Why not take advantage of anything you can. In fact, why not play up to it, if it helps. I'm certainly guilty of using it to my benefit on occasion and like Ali, I'm not ashamed of doing it.

Ali and Skye have really different ways of approaching this idea, but I can tell you that they're both actually really strong women and are quite similar in lots of ways. They're both really aware and sensitive about how women are treated and they both speak out about it without self-consciousness, they're smart and funny, they're both good surfers from whom I always learn a lot and they're two of my favourite surfing companions.

I was talking about this to a colleague a while ago, telling him about Skye's theory and he scoffed,

That's bullshit! No-one gives a fuck what you're wearing. No-one even notices. You're living in a fantasy land. I don't care whether you're a guy or a chick, in the water I'll treat you according to how you surf.

I looked at him as he spoke, taken aback by the strength of his response, but thinking that he makes a really good point. Lots of people are like him and that's great.

And my friend May reckons it's bullshit too. She reckons that it's no different for a chick in the water. But then, she usually surfs with her boyfriend and she surfs very particular breaks.

I don't know. I mean, it's complicated and it's generalising, but I've certainly noticed that particular ways of behaving are going to get rewarded. If I act the girl, making big eyes, smiling coyly, being polite and submissive, I certainly get called into a lot of waves by dudes. And I can't deny that the size of my bikini bottoms might weigh some effect on that...

4 comments:

  1. It all comes down to personal integrity in the end. You do what you can live with. Using sexual collateral is understandable, but don't be too pissed off when it runs out.

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  2. wish i had some sexual collateral . . .sounds like the x factor for the modern surfer's quiver

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  3. Yeah, those kind of responses certainly have a shelf life. And perhaps I've mis-represented myself a little bit here because I don't really make such calculated swim-wear choices. What I wanted to say was that things cn be murky and that we do have choices to make in terms of behaviour and our responses to things. But I also don't think it's right to judge one choice of response over another just because, intellectually, it seems an uncomfortable fit. Sometimes there's a game and there's individual gains to be had by paying it. But you're right - it does all come down to having to live with yourself.

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  4. I don't know. When I paddle out on a relatively cold day and all I have on is my zip up jacket top and some trunks instead of the full suit, I am accorded instantly more respect in the water. At least until I waste a wave. Then it's all over anyhow.

    But until that moment comes, I feel like I am given a little something extra.

    (hopefully I get a few good ones before my ankle gives out.)

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