Surf Girl

Sur ng ONE LOVE

Celebratin­g love around the world, we find out what it means to be gay, lesbian, queer or bi and a surfer in today’s world.

- words SOPHIE EVERARD

Keala Kennelly, USA

The most outspoken gay surfer is Keala Kennelly.

This celebrated, multi-accomplish­ed pro-surfer has a well-charted, tumultuous history with the surf industry, pertaining to her sexuality. In 2019 when she emotionall­y received her trophy for the Women’s Big Wave World Title, it sparked a more celebrator­y dialogue around women’s sexuality in surfing. Passionate­ly declaring: “I needed to dream bigger because when I was 25, I was hiding in the closet, soaked in shame, living in fear and I hated myself.” Keala continued, “I didn’t think you could be world champion and gay at the same time. Now I get to be the first openly gay world champion. I get to be proud of who I am and I get to love myself exactly as I am, not as people would want me to be.” Her inspiring speech left hardly a dry eye in the house. Keala has long been an advocate for changing the discourse in profession­al surfing that has been unfavourab­le towards gay women in the past, and has paved the way for others to follow.

Sara Guel, Spain

“My name is Sara and I am from Barcelona. I don’t like to label my sexual orientatio­n but I am into women. I have been surfing since 2015, when I visited a surf camp in the north of Spain and I loved it. It wasn’t until 2017 when I joined a Mad to Live retreat that I started surfing more often in different parts of the world. I have been accepted as an equal to any community I have been in and my sexual orientatio­n has never closed any doors.

Being straight or gay is not an issue in the surfing community. It has never impacted my experience in any way. I’ve never been rejected for feeling attracted to women and I’ve never flirted with or dated anyone from the surfing community either. At the beginning, I wasn’t comfortabl­e expressing my sexuality out loud in any kind of environmen­t. But something happened back in 2017 on that Mad to Live retreat that empowered me to be proud of who I was. I was surrounded by such a loving and fearless group of women that made me believe and love myself the way I was. And since then, everything changed and I am more open to talk naturally about my sexual orientatio­n.

I believe the surfing community welcomes any kind of person. In the end, we all share the same passion – surfing. Straight, gay, queer, transgende­red… we all want to feel the rush and adrenaline of catching that perfect wave.

Being straight or gay is not an issue in the sur ng community.

Lien Wevers, Belgium

“I always identified as lesbian, because I’m mostly attracted to women. But the label started to feel more and more restrictiv­e. There is so much more between, beyond, around the gender binary. I’ve dated lesbian, bisexual, non-binary people. So nowadays I am loud and proud in calling myself a queer lady. The ocean doesn’t care who you love, what your job is, where you were born… A wave makes no judgments. Luckily, I’d never had the impression that being gay or queer mattered in the water.

I’ve always felt the need to be open about my sexuality. That’s why I came out at the age of 13. After 15 years of being openly queer I understand, accept and value my own sexual identity. I am more than grateful for the time

The ocean doesn’t care who you love, what your job is, where you were born

and place where I was born, because I can love who I want to love. Thanks to all the people who fought for our rights. I experience less and less uncomforta­ble situations or issues nowadays, but every time I meet someone I still feel the need to make clear that I’m queer.

The surfing community is not very different to the society I live in. So far I’ve only surfed in Europe, but in the past I’ve travelled to countries where being gay is not accepted. Coming out can get you into very uncomforta­ble situations. So to be able to express this part of my identity can depend on where I travel to surf.

I think it’s important to show the diversity of the surfing community. I say yes to more women, different people from all over the world, more gay and queer people!”

Jo and Aimee Thompson, Cornwall Uk

“We live & work in Cornwall, and we are married to each other. But when we travel to a country where homosexual­ity is illegal or if it’s not a part their culture or religion we aren’t openly a couple. For instance, we travelled through some parts of Indonesia in 2015 pretending to be sisters/friends/cousins, just for our own safety. We also use the same rhetoric in Morocco, which we have visited a number of times now. We feel comfortabl­e and safe there, however we feel these things within the parameters that we have put up. We personally don’t think it is worth the risk, as we don’t know how some locals may respond. We appreciate that others may feel very strongly otherwise but for us, it is about managing

There’s more need for gay role models throughout society

our own safety. We both feel comfortabl­e expressing our sexuality in a Western environmen­t. We have no qualms in telling people we’re married.

Aimee says: “I recently joined Polzeath Women’s Surf Club which has been great for getting all abilities and all background­s involved in surfing and giving women the confidence to get out in the sea. The ladies know that I’m gay and have a wife and no one even batted an eyelid when I told them. The club is all about lifting each other up and getting better together, it is very empowering.” Jo adds: “There’s more need for gay role models throughout society. Surfing is a global lifestyle for a lot of people. If there were more openly gay role models within this lifestyle it would positively benefit the gay community.”

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Keala Kennelly’s decision to come out was revolution­ary in the surfing world.
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