A NEW WAVE OF BODY IMAGE
It’s nearly that time. Time to dust off the bikini and contemplate stepping into it, as the weather warms up and the water looks increasingly more appealing.
This time of year is received with a love- hate relationship. Everyone loves that in only a few months time we will spend our days basking in the sun, cracking open chilled ciders, indulging in colourful fruit, and finally diving into that crisp blue water that has been a tease all winter (even just writing this makes me excited).
On the downside, we still have to scrub off the remnants of the barbeque from that last summer meal back in March, and make sure our cars are legal for the numerous road trips that will take place. But what weighs more prominently on the minds of many guys and girls is the thought of stripping down to wearing next- to- nothing, and revealing our not- quite- perfect winter bodies.
This kind of body awareness has of course been around for decades; however we are increasingly being shown the perfect body and what exactly we need to do to get it. A lot of us also feel we will not be happy until we achieve it.
Women’s surfing at the moment is a perfect vehicle for demonstrating the importance placed on how you look. A recent example of this body image obsession is, of course, the Roxy teaser for the Roxy Pro Biarritz 2013. The short teaser featured a nearnaked unknown blonde (which we now know is Stephanie Gilmore) as she stepped out of bed and into the shower. The clip obviously uses the stunning Steph as a way to attract attention to the upcoming event. This has started a fiery debate about the ethics of using the unknown blonde as a sex symbol, and some have even labelled it ‘soft porn’. Despite what opinions have been broadcast about the video, one thing we know for sure if that having a figure and beauty like Steph’s does seem to get you further in the industry.
As surfing is a water sport where majority of the time you are in swimwear, it is obviously going to draw a lot of attention to the physical appearance of its athletes. However the focus is predominantly on the appearance of these girls, which not only implies that to surf you must have a certain look, but it also filters down to the rest of us. As we see these amazing women surfing and admire them for their ability to shred and ride monstrous waves, we also see how highlighted their appearances are. Must we also look like that to feel comfortable in summer?
A Quicksilver employee was recently fired over responding to Cory Schumacher’s voiced opinion on the sexism of the Roxy video. In his comments that got him fired, Chad Wells referred to how “butchy lesbos” represented surfing in the past and now majority of surfers are “sexy women who are in touch with their sexuality and know how exactly how they are represented and marketed”.
Although a bit out of touch with how to refer to women, Chad has brought up the point that the new breed of surfer girls are vastly different to the women who grew up just doing what they do and not caring about much else.
Big-wave extraordinaire and kick ass surfer, Keala Kennelly, has said that she thinks there will be a turnaround in this attitude.
“You really can't blame them; they are just playing the game as it exists. But I do foresee the pendulum swinging back to talent over image soon.”
Keala mentions that recent studies have shown that marketing promoting athleticism over looks is money better spent.
The prospect of the pendulum swinging back is reassuring, and does make sense. Surely there’s only so far the industry can go with their obsession around looks? The intertwined benefits of an active lifestyle and healthy eating decisions are both relevant and important, especially in today’s society, but they can be also be encouraged through promoting athletes rather than athlete- models. As talked about in the issue, the new breed of surfer girls know what they want and aren’t afraid to work hard for it. Kudos to them, they deserve every bit of recognition they get! I hope that they are continued to be recognised for the incredible surfers they are. These girls would also probably be the first ones to jump up and say that looks aren’t everything, that girls (and guys) shouldn’t be beating themselves up for not looking like they have walked off a cat walk and onto the beach.
Maybe Keala is right and the emergence of a new wave of body image is on the horizon, the kind where it’s about what you can do as an athlete (or regular person) and not how you look doing it. Until then, let’s focus on the important things like finding those long lost jandals (thongs, flip flops, etc), and planning surfing adventures, summer’s around the corner and there’s no looking back now!
Stephanie Gilmore showing she’s got talent as well as looks