Decades Of Surf-Misogyny Finally Reversed At Keramas

by stab May 31, 2018 4 min read

It’s no secret that when it comes to wave quality, the WSL tends to favour men over women.

Due to the WSL’s overlapping competitive schedules at venues with small windows of premier surf, decisions must be made, and to the chagrin of females everywhere the League follows its own best interest: men get the best waves because they generate more viewership, which translates (roughly) to ad dollars.

We could get into a long, highly subjective, potentially misogynistic list of reasons for why that may be, but the numbers don’t lie.

In other words, it’s rare that the women are the purposeful beneficiaries of high quality surf in competition.

I did say purposeful.

Once, in 2015, the Women CT were told to paddle out at Trestles on a late September afternoon. Just as the first heat hit the water, a summer storm formed along the coast, creating a rare offshore wind that groomed the southern hemi lines in jaw-dropping fashion. For one beautiful moment in time, the women lucked into the best conditions of the event.

Men everywhere complained.

Caroline Marks cranks one for feminism. Photo: WSL

Then today, nearly three years since Caroline’s bottom-turn shattered a million male egos, the women paddle out to Keramas on the worstforecasted day of the waiting period. Although the waves had dropped from the men’s (three) opening days of competition, the conditions were sublime, with green head-high tubes sliding across the reef and a wind that refused to blow.

It was easily the most rippable day of competition thus far, and rip the gals did.

Where’s the T-Mobile Tube Timer™?

Steph, Silvana, Coco, Nikki, and Sally all stuffed themselves in proper forehand tubes and came out spitting fire. Steph’s approach was the most aesthetically pleasing, as her Coolangatta-groomed barrel stance and post-ejection carve made my knees quake. Coming out of a tube with that much speed and nailing a big turn is one of the most difficult things to do in surfing. But for Steph, just a slice of key lime pie.

No more “girl turns.”

In the cultural understanding of 2018, it’s become a major no-no to portray masculinity as the feminine ideal in almost any scenario (AKA Freud can suck it). So, Lakey, Carissa, and Tyler were not performing “man turns” today at Keramas, but they certainly weren’t turning like “girls” either. They could have given Kolohe a run for his money (and straight up bankrupted Mikey February) on the strength of their cutties.

Caroline Marks is a (teen) sensation! Photo: WSL/Cestari

Yes, Caroline Marks is still a talking point.

Have you forgotten that this girl (yes, girl) is only 16 years old? After making the quarters at Snapper and nearly besting Steph Gilmore at pumping Bells, it’s clear that Caroline, despite being young, is the real deal. Her performance today solidified the idea that we might be watching the best backhand in the history of women’s surfing. Sorry Tati.

Italo rips switch, but Sage is a style queen.

When the wind finally started to blow this arvo, the WSL sent out the Corona Highline crew, consisting of Matt Wilkinson, Coco Ho, Italo Ferreira and Sage Erickson all riding fat, white single-fins. While Wilko underwhelmed and Coco struggled to turn the outdated plank, Italo and Sage went fairly bonkers (considering the conditions). Italo was thrusting his dynamite hips hither and yon, throwing a series of switch cutties, legitimate backside hangers, frontside punts, and the odd pop shuv-it. Meanwhile Sage took the event name quite literally, using the single-fin to highline stylishly across the top before burning it back into the pocket with the utmost control.

I voted #goitalo but Sage won by a landslide.

The pay gap continues.

You thought the women only got shafted in terms of wave quality? Au contraire, mademoiselle. If we’re discussing the female struggle in this article, we might as well cover all the bases, the most blatant of which would be the WSL’s gender wage gap.

According to a 2016 study, women working full time in the United States were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid. In surfing, women are not even afforded that luxury. Instead, they receive between 65-70 percent of what their male counterparts make for a CT event.

Like with the WSL’s decision to give men better conditions, this issue probably comes back to a viewership disparity, in which the men outpace the women, making men more directly profitable to the WSL and therefore more “worthy” of increased pay. But at the same time, this disparity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if the women continue to get (relatively) underpaid to surf inferior conditions.

There’s no way to get female viewership up if the variables are consistently against them. And by stacking the variables against them, it becomes much harder for women to improve their skills and entice new viewers in that way, meaning they are permanently stuck in a less-profitable, shitty wave purgatory.

Just something to consider.

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