Earlier this year, I went up to the Noosa Festival of Surfing for a couple of days. Friends of mine were competing so I wanted to watch and support them and as an extra added bonus, the waves were amazing!! The days were spent surfing, chatting, sitting, eating, drinking and teasing each other mercilessly (some more than others). I learned a lot in those days - about comps, about boards, about surfing.
One day we were sitting on the rocks off First Point, watching the women's pro longboarding heats, checking out our friend's competition for the quarter final. I can't remember all the surfers in that heat, but what I do remember is at one point one of the women getting a nice wave and the announcer calling that wave and referencing the woman surfing as "the surfer in blue". As in,
And that was a great wave for the surfer in blue!
My very astute and observant friend (let's call him Mark) leaned across to me and explained,
So that 'surfer in blue' is the current women's world longboarding champion, Jen Smith. There is no way Harley would ever get called 'the surfer in blue' in any heat, semi or final. That's shit.
He was right. That surfer in blue was the then world champion, Jen Smith*. And he's also right that it was shit that the commentator had no idea who she was. We listened to hear what happened next. What happened next was a fair bit of silence over the mic and then a return to commentating with the name 'Jen Smith' flying from his lips. I have a feeling Mark wasn't the only one who was shocked by his lack of knowledge.
Mark was very astute in his observation that such a slight wouldn't have ever happened to Harley Ingleby. Or Mick Fanning for that matter. The women at Noosa were surfing the same number of heats, against an equally demanding set of competitors, but Jen Smith's World Champion status was lost in her less promoted public profile. Although longboarding magazines have much stronger and more consistent levels of female representation, there is still a crazy imbalance, which plays out and is highlighted in moments like this one. And which still surprises me.
Anyway, that 'surfer in blue', shreds. And she deserved more recognition than she received that day. And I was stoked that it was so quickly rectified!
*Cori Schumacher won her third world title in France in July.