Women’s big-wave surfing is certainly having its moment. On the heels of Outside Magazine’s recent mini-profile of Bianca Valenti and a podcast interview with her released this week, the New York Times just published a full-length feature in this week’s NYT Magazine called “The Fight for Gender Equality in One of the Most Dangerous Sports on Earth”.
Written by Dan Duane, Ocean Beach, SF, surfer and author of one of the best surf books ever written, “Caught Inside”, the article is a real, real deep dive into, well, the fight for gender equality in the big-wave arena. Not equality of outcome, mind you, but equality of opportunity. There’s not a whole lot of new information here for surfers who’ve been paying close attention to this movement over the past few years, but there is some beautiful photography and Duane is one of the best surf writers in the biz, who only rarely wades into our cultural corner.
Here’s a taste:
“As a group of young surfer girls had their pictures taken with Kennelly, I recalled a speech she gave in 2016 at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, Calif., during the annual Big Wave Awards. One of Kennelly's Teahupoo barrels had won Barrel of the Year in a so-called open category that includes men, marking the first time a female surfer had ever won. Onstage that night behind a black lectern that made her seem tiny, Kennelly leaned into a microphone. "When I was a little girl, I didn't really want to be a little girl," she said. "Because when I was a little girl, I kept getting told, 'You can't do that because you're a girl.' " She rattled off a litany: " 'Women can't surf.' 'O.K., women can surf, but women can't get barreled.' 'Women can't surf big waves.' " Visibly moved, she continued. "So, who I really, really want to thank is everybody in my life that told me, 'You can't do that because you're a woman.' Because that drove me to dedicate my life to proving you wrong, and it's been so damn fun." Finally, Kennelly confessed that even she never thought a woman could win a men's big-wave award and thanked everyone "for sharing this moment with me right now, when the impossible became the possible," she said, "because I have never been so proud in my life to be a woman."
You can read the whole thing here.
Also, the NYT mag crew released a video of how they go about choosing the cover, which, I don’t know, I think it’s always interesting to watch landlubbers wrap their heads around surfing and explain what they find interesting about it. That’s worth a look too.
Women’s big-wave surfing has made some massive leaps in both exposure and straight-up performance over the past decade and the mainstream world is finally taking notice, something that surf marketers have been waiting for for a long, long time. Who knows where it leads.