A NEW WAVE OF BODY IM­AGE

Curl - - Last Word - Words by Lucy Curno | Im­age by Steve Dick­in­son

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

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