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
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