A Change In The Weather

Fore­cast­ing a new pulse in women ’s surf­ing

Tracks - - Curious Species - By Emily Brug­man.

For a long time now, a gap has ex­isted in the fe­male surf­ing in­dus­try, some­where be­tween the bikini clad mod­els and the com­pet­i­tive elite. I’m talk­ing about fe­male freesurfers. Where are they? Who are they? Are there even any out there? Jaleesa Vin­cent is one young surfer who’s de­cided to put her eggs in the freesurf­ing bas­ket. It’s a path less trav­elled by up and com­ing fe­male surfers, but as a Harry Pot­ter read­ing, Patti Smith dot­ing punk-rocker, she might just have the per­fect recipe for suc­cess. Freesurfers are mul­ti­di­men­sional crea­tures. Bren­dan Margieson was per­haps the first suc­cess­ful freesurfer, known for his wild, ex­pres­sive hacks and knock-knee stance. He paved the way for surfers like Ozzie Wright, Rasta and later Dane Reynolds. There wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily a for­mula to fol­low. Each surfer had some­thing that dis­tin­guished him from the crowd: Ozzie brought his artis­tic and mu­si­cal flair; Rasta con­nected surf­ing with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism and spirituality, while a hum­ble Reynolds, widely con­sid­ered the best surfer in the world at the time, shunned com­pe­ti­tion but con­tin­ued to make gi­ant leaps in surf­ing. As freesurfers, these guys could ap­proach a wave with com­plete free­dom, un­con­fined by the need to surf to cri­te­ria. They in­spired kids who couldn’t find them­selves in the per­fect arcs of Fan­ning or the pre­cise lines of Slater. Kids who at­tended a few grom-searches and hated them. For young girls grow­ing up surf­ing there are two archetypes to look to when you’re shap­ing your surf­ing iden­tity. There’s the Stephs, Tylers, Sallys and Caris­sas. In­cred­i­ble women who are hy­per com­pet­i­tive by na­ture and have raised the bar in women’s surf­ing to re­mark­able new heights. And there are freesurfers who get paid to be beau­ti­ful, who have a body-type con­sid­ered mar­ketable. To some ex­tent Steph Gil­more does bridge that gap – al­though she has cho­sen to re­main pre­dom­i­nantly a tour surfer. In be­tween these two archetypes, there’s a big void, just wait­ing for some­one like Jaleesa Vin­cent to step up and fill it. Jaleesa grew up surf­ing an old Pas­coe sin­gle fin on the Sunny Coast with her brother Jake Vin­cent. They idolised peo­ple like Ozzie Wright and Wade Goodall (a fel­low Sunny Coaster from the next town over), and hit adult­hood be­liev­ing that do­ing what you love for a liv­ing was a le­git­i­mate op­tion. Last year Jaleesa went on a trip, where she met all her favourite surfers, in­clud­ing the boys be­hind Rage, and as a re­sult of that trip was fea­tured in the film Scary Good. She plays drums in a two-piece band called Skreech, which is de­scribed as gen­re­less noise some­where be­tween metal and hard­core. When asked why there aren’t a whole lot of fe­male freesurfers out there, Jaleesa said: “If you want a surf­ing ca­reer it seems that the eas­i­est way is to fol­low the grain and do the comp scene. It’s much harder for fe­males than males to get spon­sored and es­pe­cially for free surf­ing. You have to bring some­thing dif­fer­ent to the ta­ble. And at the mo­ment most girl free surfers are pre­dom­i­nately mar­keted around how they look in a bikini.” Jaleesa rep­re­sents an­other side of fe­male surf cul­ture. She’s not overly in­ter­ested in the tour, nor in In­sta­gram be­yond its func­tion as a plat­form to dis­play your cre­ative work. She’s com­fort­able in her own skin and doesn’t seem con­cerned with man­u­fac­tur­ing an im­age. When asked what was the first CD she ever bought, Vin­cent replied without pre­tence, “So Fresh Au­tumn 2014”. A hand­ful of other women have at­tempted to crack the freesurf­ing mar­ket. Some have been suc­cess­ful, like Keala Ken­nelly, who’s fear­less big wave ex­per­tise has won her fans around the world. In the long­board­ing com­mu­nity, women might take the freesurf­ing route, but beauty and body type re­main high on the cri­te­ria. In the women’s short­board­ing world, we’re yet to see freesurf­ing re­ally take off. Per­haps Jaleesa Vin­cent, with a fluid style, a mean front-side wack and an el­e­gant drop-wallet prow­ess, has the po­ten­tial to get things mov­ing. If the time for women’s freesurf­ing is now, what cir­cum­stances might al­low for its rise? For the first time in the in­dus­try’s his­tory, surfers are mak­ing their own brands and se­lect­ing their own team rid­ers. The Rage boys are in some ways re­spon­si­ble for thrust­ing Jaleesa into the lime­light, by giv­ing her a part in Rage 2. They’re keen on show­cas­ing in­ter­est­ing surf­ing and in­ter­est­ing per­son­al­i­ties, and don’t need to sell biki­nis. Per­haps it’s also got some­thing to do with the nat­u­ral tra­jec­tory of a cul­ture and an in­dus­try. Women’s surf­ing has evolved and ma­tured over the years. Steph Gil­more is one of the best-loved surfers in the world, male and fe­male in­cluded. Surf­ing’s spec­ta­tor­ship is on a con­stant rise; the num­ber of women in the wa­ter has soared; the cul­ture has di­ver­si­fied and young fe­male surfers are look­ing for role mod­els of many shapes and sizes. Un­for­tu­nately, it’s still com­mon for young girls to look to pa­per-thin mod­els as ex­am­ples of ide­alised selves, but per­haps that’s also a com­ment on the kinds of images that the in­dus­try is of­fer­ing up. As Vin­cent pointed out, lack of spon­sor­ship com­pounds the pay gap. Too many busi­ness peo­ple it seems, know the cost of ev­ery­thing but the value of noth­ing. Surely the time is ripe to back a few young shred-lords like Jaleesa Vin­cent, help change the cul­ture and pro­pel women’s surf­ing into new and un­ex­pected ter­ri­to­ries.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.