Monday, August 19, 2013

In defence of Anastasia Ashley

So, I've been thinking a lot about that clip of part of Anastasia Ashley's pre-comp warm-up. I'm sure by now you have seen it. It contains footage of her sort of dancing on the beach as she warms up. The moves she does involve lots of hip rotations and the person who put it together has set it to a song called 'Bubble Butt' (at least, based on the lyrics, that's what I assume it's called). This clip has been widely circulated on surf websites, blogs and social media, but I've decided that I won't post it up here because I think it's really creepy. If you haven't seen it, I'm sure you can find it if you really want to.

The thing is, Anastasia Ashley can do whatever the hell she wants. I'm not saying her moves in this clip are my thing or that I think it does women's surfing many favours, but if she wants to do those moves on the beach to warm up, then that's up to her. She's doing a dance move and it's provocative. So what? And I'm also not saying that there isn't a problem with the sexualisation of professional women surfers (and other athletes) and the effects that has on women's surfing more generally, because there are some really, really big problems there.

But the thing that I find troubling about that clip is that someone has filmed Anastasia Ashley doing this without her knowledge or consent and has then edited it to some shitty music to drive home the point, 'Hey look! Anastasia Ashley's butt'! Yeah I realise she's on a public beach and in front of (possibly) a lot of people, but that doesn't mean she wanted this person to film her and post it on the web. I do lots of silly physical things while I'm wearing swimmers on the beach, which I would hate for people to film me doing, set to music and post online. Doing things in public isn't an invitation for them to film and ridicule you. In fact, she explicitly says this in an interview with following the blow-up around this clip:
SHAPE: Do you have any special pre-competition rituals or warm-up routines?
AA: Usually before an event, I try to relax and have a super mellow day. Just before my heats, I go down to the beach and try to get in the zone. I have to block everyone out and not talk to them. It's important to me because I've been doing that for so long that I feel like it's part of my routine and that's what helps me do well.

Sarah Beardmore has made a parody clip of Anastasia Ashley's moves. In this clip, Beardmore is performing for the camera, rather than preparing for a comp - the difference brings the parody to life.

Like I said, I have issues with the way some women who surf are encouraged to and rewarded for using their sexuality to promote themselves as athletes, and I think there are plenty of conversations to be had about that, but this is different. What it does more than anything is highlight the different ways that various female surfers are read and understood in surfing culture - I mean, if this filmer was really interested in not putting her down, they might have included some footage of her surfing as well.

Anyway, Ashley seems okay about it - maybe she would even have given permission if the person filming had asked - but I think it sucks that the main response to this clip has been to ridicule Anastasia Ashley when she has done nothing wrong. Any criticism arising form this particular clip should focus on how creepy it is to make and distribute clips like this one, without the consent of the person being filmed.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Women get it back-to-front

Neil Griffith (over at Modyssey) took this image of a woman (Tiffany?) playing around on the Sunshine Coast. 
Thanks, Neil.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Women get critical

Holy nose ride, Kassia Meador.
I honestly don't know who took this picture, which makes me hesitant to post it. But it is uncredited all over Tumblr at the moment (which is something I really hate about Tumblr, actually), so here it is being blogged now too. 

Because it's a really great shot.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Layne Beachley

Cape Solander, 13 May 2009. Sequence, Billy Morris via Coastalwatch.

Layne Beachley is someone who just seems to rub people up the wrong way. And sure, I've seen her do some things and heard her say some things where I just thought, 'Really?' But I have also seen and heard many famous surfers do and say things that made me shake my head, so I don't really pay Layne's moments too much heed. But for some reason, other people do, and they really rub their dislike of her in her face.

And the sad effect of this has been that she doesn't get the credit that she deserves for her role in  driving and building the profile of competitive surfing in Australia, and in particular the opportunities that many professional female surfers now enjoy. I wouldn't say she is the patron saint of women's surfing - not at all - but I would say that because people don't like her, they don't want to acknowledge her achievements and impact. She rips, she was world champion seven times, she has caught some impressive and heavy waves (including those pictured in this post from her session at Cape Solander in May 2009), and from 2006-2013 she started and ran a competition for women that had the highest prize pool on the women's side of the ASP World Championship Tour - $140,00) in 2012. (As of this year, that competition has been cancelled due to lack of sponsors.)

Cape Solander, 13 May 2009. Image Tim Bonython via Coastalwatch.

Layne constantly advocates for recognition of women's surfing in the media, in the industry, and financially. One woman who surfed on the tour at the same time as Layne told me that as world champion,  Layne felt a responsibility to argue up the money she was earning from sponsors as she felt that she had to set the bar for what other women could earn. And whether you like her or not, that kind of thinking and effort is something that deserves recognition of its own.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Women have surfed for as long as men

Here are just a few images of some women whose surfing I admire and who have made important contributions to surfing and surfing culture over the last few hundred years. And I assure you, this list of women here, is the tip of a very big iceberg.

Engraving of women surfing in Hawai'i.

Isma Amor was surfing in Manly from as early as 1912.

Isabel Letham was the infamous teenage girl taken into the surf with Duke Kahanamoku in 1915. She was an amazing woman. As part of a long and full life, she was the Director of Swimming for the City of San Francisco. She decided to teach surf lifesaving techniques as part of her program. She attempted to join Manly life saving club in the late 1920s, but was knocked back because as a woman she would not able to handle the rough conditions of the sea. What a crock of shit. (Note: Women were not admitted as members of the Australian Life Saving Association until the 1980s. For real.)
Isabel Letham is a total hero. You can read more about her via the National Library of Australia

 Phyllis O'Donnell surfing in the 1964 World Titles at Manly. She won. Photo by Ron Perrott, taken from the Historic Houses Trust website for the Surf City exhibition held in Sydney last year.

Linda Benson seems like a pretty cool cat.

Rell Sunn. All time.

Wendy Botha is a four time world surfing champion (1987, 1989, 1991, 1992). She still rips.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Women drop in.

Yeah they do.
It's okay when it's with friends (like in this shot).
(via my current favourite, the lovely Stillness)

Friday, August 02, 2013

Women are strong

I've already written about how Melissa Combo is always one of the best and strongest surfers in the water.
Her surfing and her style commands any lineup I've seen her in.
This image is from Joni Sternbach's, Surfland, series.