RISE FIERCE

Re­cently, Bri­tish surfer So­phie Hel­lyer has be­come the spokesper­son for the over-sex­u­al­i­sa­tion of women’s surf­ing, fem­i­nism, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism, sus­tain­abil­ity and many more is­sues. Hav­ing now moved to Lon­don to be in a place to pro­mote pos­i­tive change, we

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So­phie, how many years have you been in­volved in the surf in­dus­try? I started surf­ing when I was about 13 and was spon­sored by Roxy at 15. I’m 30 now, so I guess 15 years give or take.

What pos­i­tive changes have you seen in the in­dus­try dur­ing this time?

The surf in­dus­try has changed hugely. To start with the girls are rip­ping harder than ever; it does seem like ev­ery gen­er­a­tion is push­ing it fur­ther than the pre­vi­ous, both com­pet­i­tively and through just mak­ing a liv­ing from the sport, and that’s great to see. I get ex­cited when I look at clips of the younger women and girls throw­ing bet­ter turns, surf­ing heav­ier waves and get­ting big­ger bar­rels than I could ever do. It’s amaz­ing to watch that curve over time. I think there is more coach­ing avail­able now and I think this is some­thing we need to see more and more of if we want the young women to keep pro­gress­ing.

Aside from that, this year alone we are see­ing so many pos­i­tive changes worth com­ment­ing on: The WSL ap­pointed a fe­male CEO, So­phie Gold­schmidt, and she is mak­ing mod­i­fi­ca­tions and pos­i­tive changes there to level the play­ing field. There are lots of fe­male-owned start-ups, such as Sea To­gether, an indy mag funded through Kick­starter, and eth­i­cal and sus­tain­able swimwear brands like Ba­toko, Davy J’s and Deakin Blue, which are bring­ing a re­fresh­ing ap­proach to the surf in­dus­try through body pos­i­tiv­ity and di­ver­sity.

What changes would you like to see in the fu­ture?

I feel women’s surf­ing is on a fan­tas­tic jour­ney at the mo­ment, but there is still so much work to be done. Change doesn’t hap­pen overnight, it hap­pens at a so­cial level, by be­gin­ning to change the way peo­ple per­ceive women surf­ing.

One of the most sig­nif­i­cant changes I would like is to boost en­gage­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion in surf­ing amongst peo­ple of all ages and from all back­grounds, es­pe­cially those who are dis­ad­van­taged. I want to pre­vent young boys and girls be­com­ing dis­en­gaged from surf­ing be­cause they feel they don’t fit in with this beauty ideal we are typ­i­cally pre­sented with. We need to take the first steps in iden­ti­fy­ing the clichés of fe­male surfers, and break them down so we can move be­yond th­ese lim­it­ing stereo­types. One ob­vi­ous way is by us­ing plat­forms, like Surf

Girl mag, to show­case more di­verse role mod­els. Af­ter all, what we see we can be. I also think projects like The Wave Bris­tol are go­ing to open up so many op­por­tu­ni­ties for us to de­velop

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