30 December 2014

Just In Time

Right after I got out of the water, the ocean looked like this:
Before that, not long after daylight, the surface was lightly ruffled by a slight offshore breeze. It was cold, in the upper 40s, and there were only five of us surfing at the pier. Three of the guys were from NorCal presently or in the past, and one of them recognized my Ward Coffey-shaped 6'2" from the lineup in eastside Santa Cruz. Seems a lot of the Bay Area migrates to San Diego for the holidays.

The waves were small, barely waist high, and their weakness challenged my ability to paddle in. The longboarders had better luck, but I scored several fun waves, making my bottom-to-top turns on the face tiny to match their diminutive stature.

The wind started to pick up, increasing the chop and teasing spotty whitecaps from the sea. The three amigos left, and a French dude on a rented pop-out and I searched for our last waves. I rode mine nearly to the beach, pumping it past a soft section. By the time I showered off and started to climb the stairs, the onshore wind was blowing so hard I had trouble holding onto my surfboard. Seems I made it out just in time ahead of an approaching end-of-the-year storm.

On a sadder note, my surfmobile has been crippled by an engine malfunction. After 102,000 miles, it's not worth spending half of the remaining value of the car on repairs, so I'll be saying goodbye to my '08 MINI Cooper S.
RIP, Lizzie (overlooking Santa Cruz on her maiden surf expedition)
Meanwhile, I'm getting to the surf in my husband's car, like this:
which is very cold at this time of year! Thank the gods for seat heaters.

27 December 2014

NorCal Visits

My old Bay Area surf buddy, Luke, said he'd meet me after low tide for a surf if he got up early enough. Turned out he didn't, but Nick from NorCal paddled up in the nearly empty lineup to say hi. It's a small surfing world.
Although the waves were nearly as sparse as the surfers, patient waiting through lengthy lulls paid off with several long waist-high+ waves. And the morning was lovely (if chilly - there was frost on the cliff path). Yay!
Not quite

24 December 2014

Eve Sunrise

Lovely morning for a surf. Only 4 of us at Hennemans in head-high waves brushed by taco-scented offshores.
Well worth paddling out before sunrise!

23 December 2014

Must've Been Naughty

...because I got lumpy waves in my stocking late morning.
 Still snagged a bit of fun from the holiday crowd.

22 December 2014

After (Not) the Longest Night Ever

Last night was the longest night ever in the history of Earth. At least I thought so, until this article was corrected. Turns out the longest night ever was actually in 1912. Anyway, we've turned the corner past winter solstice and the days get longer from here. Yay!
After the morning king high tide started to drop, Christina met me for a surf at Hennemans, which was going a bit overhead and getting more crowded and breezy by the minute.
Although it was hard to stay in position for the outside set waves that snuck through on the empty north side peak, my patience there paid off a couple times. Double yay!

15 December 2014

Breaking the Rule

They say you should stay out of the water for 72 hours following a significant rain. I've never been good at following rules. And storms have been coming through so frequently that obeying would mean not surfing for a couple of weeks. I had to take advantage of today's small window in the weather. Although I came down with a cold last night, I wasn't going to let that stop me, not with rain predicted to fall for the next three days. I bundled up in my 4/3 wetsuit for the first time this season, and added a 1mil hood, so as not to add a second sort of cold to the first.
There were 10 surfers out at Hennemans in shoulder-high waves, but only 4 at Sewers. Much as I love that left, a shorter paddle plus lighter crowd made it an easy choice.
Sewers, and Mike's board which was shaped by Rick
There were a few familiar and friendly faces in the lineup, including Rick and Mike, who greeted me with smiles. After a lull, the waves turned on again, and I rode a few fun rights and a left. My limited energy told me to quit early, but the waves were so fun - it was one of those really nice surf days - that I had to turn around and go back for one more. It was a long right that took me close to shore, where I got out near the big outflow pipe from which Sewers takes its name. Sweet stoke to hold onto through the stormy weather to come!
Rick and Mike were already topside at Calumet Park and provide commentary for the video.

11 December 2014

High Surf

The surf was approaching DOH and there was no channel between Hennemans and Sewers, but I found a sweeet slightly overhead right at Tourmaline inside of PB Point.

06 December 2014


Happily, the swell hitting Kauai's north shore did drop a little - just for a day. Seeking lefts, I parked at the west end of Hanalei Bay and paddled out in the channel between two peaks at Waikoko, opting for the nearer one toward Pinetrees. Still, it was a ten minute paddle across sand and dimly-visible reef. With no sets in sight, I thought to cut the journey a bit shorter and crossed to the other side of the peak while still inside of a clutch of SUPers. There wasn't time. Caught inside, I got to my feet briefly on a broken wave before being reminded of the power of Hawaiian swells. Swept off my board, I dove under the rest of the set, barely catching my breath between waves. I started to feel like I was going to hyperventilate, and forced myself to inhale slowly. When the set passed I completed my trip to the left and rested in the channel while studying the peak. It was an inauspicious start, but things could only get better from there.
About ten other surfers were out, a mix of longboarders and shortboarders plus a couple of janitors. A sea turtle bobbed in our midst a dozen feet from me. Several rockstars were launching into many waves, but others were less bold. The current pushed us all toward the channel, so we constantly paddled back to the peak. Although sometimes a wave would swing wide, the usual takeoff spot was tight with wrapping toward the peak; slim chance of catching any from the shoulder. General disorganization added to the challenge of reading the waves.

The current made it hard to stay in position, and I wasn't sure just where position was anyway. When one of the outliers lined up for me, it was quite clearly a right. "I hope I don’t regret this," I thought as I made the rampy head-high+ drop. Whee! Before I rode right too far, recollection of my beating on the way out made me turn left ahead of the whitewater to try to get closer to the channel, but I still took a few waves on the head before reaching calmer waters.
A Zodiac anchored nearby and two groms paddled over, followed by one of their fathers. (Must be nice to skip the long paddles and motor wherever you want to surf! And also to have a parent who teaches you at a young age.) The boys were maybe seven, and they ripped on their tiny shortboards, charging waves that were double-overhead to them.

There were two other women in the lineup. A grim-faced longboarder caught nothing until she paddled inside of me and rode a right in. Well out on the shoulder, a shortboarder mostly bobbed until her rockstar guy noticed and came over to offer advice. Still, she got nada, and he went back to sitting deep and riding waves. I asked her if she surfed there often, and she replied "Yes, we try to come here once a year" from Portland. (That's often?) I remember when that was me, sitting too far on the shoulder to have any chance of catching a wave, yet too scared to get in the way of overhead surf.
At last an elusive left came to me with no one on it, and I stroked in for a fast drop that blew back the brim of my new surf hat. A few turns later the wave lost energy over a deep spot in the reef, and I ended my ride with a woot and a grin.

It was great to surf one last time this year in only a 1mil vest and leggings, but I was getting tired and began to make my way back across to the opposite channel. This was not without another mild thrashing despite my attempt to stay well outside. Still I found one more clean right to take me farther toward my goal: the distant parking lot at the side of the rural road. My shoulders were burning by the time my feet touched sand, but I was still smiling. Stoked!

05 December 2014

Black Pot

As I write, this is the view from our clifftop lanai on Kauai's north shore:
"It's not small" is an understatement. The surf is solidly overhead, has been so since we arrived three days ago, and is not forecast to drop before we leave.

Sigh. As I mentioned,  we've been here three days. And I'm jonesing.

So this morning I surf-checked much of Hanalei Bay. I started at Waikoko on the west end, hoping the lefts would look good as surfing Hennemans has made me comfortable in sizeable reefbreak on my frontside. I had almost worked up the courage when I started to chat with a couple guys who'd also been watching for a while. They said they surfed there a lot and it wasn't one of the break's better days. Just then one of their friends passed by toting his SUP, seawater dripping from his graying locks. "Don't even think about it! he warned, repeating it thrice for emphasis. He told them he'd gotten worked trying to come in, then headed for his truck in the dirt lot on a narrow strip between beach and road.
"Are you going to go out?" I asked one of the guys. "I don't know..." he mused. "It's not exactly calling my name today." It certainly wasn't calling mine. 8'+ surf at an unfamiliar break on an unfamiliar surfboard; it didn't take much to erode my courage.

I headed back around the bay, not bothering to check Pinetrees which had looked a mess yesterday. From Hanalei pier, the rights breaking on the eastern reef looked just as big and mostly disorganized as the western lefts. Unlike Waikoko, I've surfed there before, but my backside is not as strong from lack of practice. San Diego has spoiled me with lefts.
Again dissuaded from digging deep for my inner hellwoman, I noted the waist- to occasionally chest-high waves breaking near the pier at Black Pot Beach. It was the province of the surf schools, but there were a handful of real surfers in the mix. I am not too proud to acknowledge my limits.

In town, I searched the surf shop racks again for a suitable rental board. One shop had a Firewire Spitfire, but it was 6'8" and quad-finned. Across the street at Hanalei Surf Company, I found a Rusty surfboard that seemed as close to Rocket as I might hope to find, although two inches longer, a bit wider and thicker, and lacking a tail pad. The yum-yum yellow accents were only on top, where the Landlord thankfully wouldn't see them
Back at the pier, with time growing short before I had to get back for a yoga class, I scratched for near-shorebreak. A few drop-and-smashes bookended a decent left that sucked sand, turning the face beside me from blue to frothy tan before ending in the shallows. I take stoke where I can find it.

30 November 2014

Before the Wind

After a late night outdoor ice skating (yes, you can do almost anything in southern California), I figured I'd woken too late to surf before the wind came up. Happily, the forecast was wrong about the onset of the southerlies so I wolfed down a piece of toast and was out the door.
The breeze and crowd were light at Hennemens but the chop was quite bouncy. Searching for rideable waves, I chatted with longboarder Kevin, who I first met at Tourmaline last year. In an hour, I scored my minimum of three decent rides, finishing with a nice long left all the way to shore as the wind started to blow in earnest.

Next surf: Kauai, where the forecast is 2-3 times overhead!

16 November 2014

What the Sea Gives Me

Last night I saw What the Sea Gives Me at Green Flash Brewery with a few friends.
What the sea gives me is stoke, and hope, and fear, and joy - and so much more. It's my oxygen, and I need to breathe it often. One interviewee in the film quoted Doc Paskowitz:
I entered the water that day wanting to blow my brains out. I came out a warrior. Surfing can make that change happen inside a man.
...or a woman. I've had no more suicidal thoughts since I started surfing, because if I died, I would never ride another wave. And I always want to ride another wave.
This morning the sea gave me several long rides before breakfast. And it was good.

10 November 2014

Blacks Birthday

The surf has been small, but I was hopeful to find some birthday waves at the local swell magnet. Although Blacks didn't look like this:
it thankfully didn't look like this either:
The waves were chest and occasionally shoulder high, a bit broken up, with light texture and light crowd. I scored several nice ones, including a left that took me pleasantly by surprise when, in the midst of a late drop, I somehow landed my feet solidly on the board rode it out.

Blacks is such a lovely spot to surf, facing the towering cliffs of Torrey Pines, with a view of Scripps pier and La Jolla beyond to the south and the coastline bending to Del Mar northward. Wildlife abounded this morning. There were birds of all sorts, including a tiny duckling-like creature that floated near. Large fish arced above the water, taking a fast line away from an unseen predator at a thankful distance.

The increasing breeze grew chilly but I'd sufficiently satisfied my thirst for surf. With Rocket under my arm and a smile on my face, I started up the long and steep private road from the beach, past a woman walking her dogs off-leash.
"Did you have fun?"
"Now you have to keep that with you all day."
That's always good advice about stoke.

One of my best birthday gifts (besides the sweet waves) was a blank book with this quote on the cover:

09 November 2014


The EXPOSURE women's skate event was inspirational. It got me to the park in Ocean Beach for the first time in probably a couple months. I'm rusty and out of shape!
Ross Field Skate Park this morning. And that's how skaters do memorials.
What inspired me was seeing other girls of all ages and abilities skating. Groms (if they're called that in skateboarding) were boosting airs, and I can't wait to see what rad moves they're capable of in five or ten more years. Then there were the seniors, a few women over 50, who were taking their first tentative pushes around the flats. And the pro women were absolutely ripping. Truly inspirational.
This little Pink Helmet Posse girl had the biggest smile when she pulled a fakie with the help of a friend.
Front-row seats - this was the view from our Surfrider Rise Above Plastics booth.
Ready, set...
Amelia Brodka

31 October 2014


I surfed this morning in cat ears and made a few people smile. Google Halloweenified the photo and made me smile.
Surfline's Pacific Beach cam is stuck in a weird orientation (and wouldn't show the south side of the pier in any event), but you can see the waves weren't scary. And that they were a little bit fun. Happy Halloween!

27 October 2014

You Deserve a Name

While the swell came up overnight, the period dropped below 10 seconds. Since it was hitting from almost due west, I knew the beach breaks would be closed out, but wasn't really sure what to expect at the La Jolla reefs.

Straight out from Calumet Park, the ocean was churning, mixed up waves sloshing unrideably at my usual spot off the main peak. They lined up a bit better farther south and also at Sewers, which had fewer surfers out. I mentally tossed a coin on swimming vs. surfing and then Hennemans vs. Sewers, and then picked the latters.

There were four guys in the lineup, including a couple I'd seen there several times before. An older longboarder paddled nearby and smiled. "You've been surfing here enough," he said, "you deserve a name. I'm Rick." I told him mine and he pointed to a shortboarder I'd chatted with on Saturday. "That's Mike." He gave me the names of the two longboarders sitting outside, which flew over my head like pelicans and were gone, as always when I'm introduced to too many people at once.
It was nice to be welcomed into the morning surfer circle. That spirit of aloha and sharing waves makes the session so much more enjoyable. We chatted in between attempts to catch the mushy, shifty, backed-off waves. Turns out Rick is a shaper, and Mike and one of the other guys were taking boards he'd made on their maiden surfs, with encouraging results. My own results were less than stellar, with a couple middling rides and one head-high drop Mike called "wicked"- I got the bottom turn in, he saw, but then my board went airborne as I failed to negotiate a big mogul that suddenly appeared in the face.

I stayed out much longer than planned, trying for one good wave (which is one of the 10 Signs You're Addicted to Surfing), and had to nervously negotiate a return to the steep cobblestone beach at a nearly 6' high tide through mid-period swell. Fortunately I timed it right. I'm looking forward to hopefully better waves and the same company tomorrow.

25 October 2014

RIP Seal Bite

Three days ago, a 67-year-old surfer died at my favorite reef break, apparently of natural causes. I've been surfing there a lot over the past couple of months, and wondered if I'd ever seen him. The photos accompanying news reports were either too distant or obscured his features, leaving me in the dark.
This morning I paddled out at 7, the same time he'd arrived on Wednesday. Since the tide was rising fast to a high high, I hurried past the impromptu memorial of flowers, photos and notes on the north side of Calumet Park.

There were a handful of surfers at Hairmos and a couple heading to Sewers, but no one at Hennemans, so you know which spot I chose. The enticing scent of tortillas baking in one of the clifftop mansions floated on the slightest offshore breeze. Solitude didn't last beyond a couple of waves, but the several near-dawn patrollers who joined me were friendly and talkative.
The waves were small and shifty yet fun, and I remembered to smile so I'd surf better. (Really! Read about that here.) I rode my last left nearly to shore, crossed the cobbles, and started up the cliff path. Ever since I slipped soon after I started surfing this break, I've half-run up the steepest park to the top, using momentum to keep me going, and that's worked every time - except today.

Two months ago, I wrote this in my blog:
The dirt trail to the top of the bluff is also a bit tricky. Not only is it steep, but there's a constant trickle of water dribbling down that turns the footing to slippery mud. (Which is odd, because we're in the middle of the drought, and other than a couple of freak thunderstorms a while ago, we haven't had rain in a long time.) Near the top, one of my feet lost purchase and I barely stopped the slide with my free hand. 
"Want to give me your hand?" said a voice from above, and I looked up to see a longboarder offering his. I raised my muddy paw and he hoisted me up the last few steps. The nice dude told me the trail's always been wet, since he was a kid, due to a natural spring. Perhaps that also explains the brownness of the water there. But hey, I'll take muddy reef break over closed-out beach break any day of the week!
This morning I tipped forward into the dirt and came to an abrupt stop. My feet scrambled for an upward toehold but I found none at first on the slippery slope. I glanced up, half hoping to see an extended hand; there was only sky. I tried once more and got a grip, then scurried the last few steps to the top. Back in the park, I took a look at the photos of Stephen Saburo Fujii, nicknamed "Seal Bite" because one nipped him years ago. I can't be certain, but I think he's the guy I met on the trail in August.
RIP, Seal Bite. I hope your last wave was a great one.

20 October 2014

The Orange Bucket

Today was a rare day when I didn't take the time to check the surf before I grabbed my board and shut my key into the lockbox hanging from my car door handle. The tide was dropping and I didn't want to delay. Nothing was breaking as I picked my way carefully down the steep path to the cobblestone beach, but a couple dudes had just paddle out, one heading to Sewers and the other to Henneman's. Must be something out there to ride, right?
Eh, not so much. The waves were small, soft and breaking shallow. I spotted an orange bucket on the beach at the base of the cliffs, just below where a few-million-dollar La Jolla house had been torn down and workers were busy preparing to erect a many-million-dollar mansion. Surfrider has a plastic art contest going on for Rise Above Plastics Month, and I decided to fetch said bucket to perhaps use in my sculpture. Not that I have much hope of winning the contest, which has a top prize of a Firewire surfboard. After all, this is not my entry:
Fish made from plastic beach trash at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito
This is (so far):
Mostly it's made from trash I collected at Surfrider's cleanup of Goat Canyon in Border Field State Park the weekend before last, with a few additions from Hennemen's: the "scarf" is a plastic bag that tangled around my leash like a strand of immortal seaweed. The border cleanup was a real eye-opener; we were within a mile of the beach, and there was an amazing amount of trash poised to wash into the ocean with the first heavy rains. Because garbage doesn't respect border fences.
Mexico is on the other side of the fence, but the trash is here
But I digress. After chatting a bit with the other dude at the main peak, about how us goofyfooters love it there and the appeal of Garbage (the break) at Sunset Cliffs, I finally caught a stoke-worthy wave and decided to end on a high note. Paying heed to the reef that was nearing the surface on the dropping tide, I made my way to shore, set Rocket gently on the stones, and walked back a bit to get the orange bucket. I picked up a few bits of trash and my board, then painfully stepped toward the cliff path on shifting cobblestones, stopping for more detritus along the way. By the time I reached the ascension point, I'd filled the bucket to almost overflowing, with two balloons, two straws, a potato chip wrapper, a fiberglass strip perhaps from a surfboard deck, a knee pad, one plastic Starbucks cup, a golf ball and odd bits of plastic.
A fitness coach and her charge saw me emptying the lot into a trash can at Calumet Park, and thanked me for doing a little cleanup. They got to talking about the gyres, and I politely corrected their misperception that they're floating islands of recognizable trash, explaining that sunlight photodegrades plastic into smaller and smaller pieces like this:
Photodegraded plastic is hard to clean up on land and impossible in the ocean
but the little bits never go away (at least not for 450-1000 years). I left them on a positive note from a film my Rise Above Plastics committee screened a couple months ago: scientists may have found a bacteria that eats the tiny plastic fragments in the gyre. Maybe they'll save us from ourselves.

17 October 2014

Nice Ending

"How about this? It's October 17th, and we're surfing in board shorts!" - one longboarder to another
"Yeah! Nice." - surfer paddling out as I swished by him on my last and best wave

16 October 2014

Blog Action Day: Inequality

It's Blog Action Day and the topic this year is inequality. I'm being lazy and reposting an article I wrote for Mpora Action Sports Magazine last month.

Second-Class Waves And Sleazy Ads: 

 Why Women Are Still Fighting For Equality 

 In Action Sports

Even in the 21st century, women are still chronically underexposed in the

 worlds of skating and surfing. We investigate why...

Photo: ESPN

Early one morning, a mother brought her three young children to the skatepark where I was riding. Her 7-year-old son strapped on a helmet and pads, picked up his skateboard, and dropped down a ramp. His two sisters, one slightly older and another younger, had to settle for make-believe.
The girls ran around the nearly empty park, carving the bowls on small sneakers instead of wheels, and giggling as they darted out of my way.
They were getting an early schooling in the difference between female and male boardriders, a disparity of opportunity and exposure that impacts all ages.

Photo: Pink Helmet Posse

Amelia Brodka experienced these differences as a little girl when she wanted to have a go at skateboarding  for the first time. She tried to ride her brother’s board, but he discouraged her by saying she wasn’t doing it right.
Later, when she was twelve, Brodka’s family attended the X-Games in Philadelphia and she saw girls skating the vert ramp. As she explains in her feature-length film, Underexposed: A Women’s Skateboarding Documentary, that was the start of her skateboarding obsession; she wanted to do what those other girls did.
For me, the defining moment came from watching Blue Crush, a thinly-plotted film that revolves around a female surfer striving to win a big wave contest at Pipeline.
Watching the main character Anne-Marie shred on the movie screen is what inspired me to sign up for my first surf lesson. If she could do it, maybe I could too. I’ve now been surfing for more than a decade, still motivated by that example.
There’s no doubt that girls and women have fewer opportunities to see others like them ripping in the skatepark or on the waves.

How many of these magazines show a fair representation of women? Photo: Surf Bang

Pick up any surfing or skateboarding magazine. How many female boardriders do you see? For that matter, how many women do you see who aren’t posing seductively to sell a product?
Many companies that market to female athletes don’t seem to understand that women would rather see their products in action than merely displayed on models.
While making Underexposed, Brodka conducted an informal poll. She took print ads for a shirt and showed them to women on the street – non-skaters who were interested in the culture and fashion. One ad showed the shirt worn by a model, the other by a woman skating. Two-thirds preferred the ad with the skateboarder.

Samarria Brevard with Brodka filming for Underexposed in Arizona. Photo: Underexposed

When I asked Brodka what changes to the skate industry she thought would be most beneficial to encourage girls who want to skate, and to support those who want to make a living at it, she replied via email, “USE SKATEBOARDERS INSTEAD OF MODELS TO PROMOTE YOUR WOMEN’S LINE, PLEASE!”
“I don’t understand why companies don’t see the advantage in using a photo of a girl who is dressed up in their apparel and looks beautiful and powerful in the middle of a smith grind,” said Brodka.
Skate brands would become more authentic, while empowering and inspiring girls and women. “When someone feels inspired by your advertisement, they are more likely to buy your product,” argues Brodka.

The surf world is no different

In the surfing world, Roxy was widely denounced last year for its contest teaser video that lingered on an faceless female surfer’s sexy body without ever showing her riding a wave.

Former world longboard champion Cori Schumacher delivered a petition to Roxy headquarters, signed by over twenty thousand people from around the world, asking the company to stop using sex to market its products.

While Roxy essentially had no comment, it seems to have backed down from that level of overt sexualisation in its advertisements.
The short film Flux: Redefining Women’s Surfing shows Kahanu Delovio, a 15-year-old surfer girl from Hawaii, who wants to focus on her sport but is already feeling pressure from her peers to wear smaller and smaller bikinis while practicing it.
“ONLY 5 PER CENT OF WOMEN HAVE THE BODY TYPE ADVERTISERS SEE AS IDEAL”Only 5 per cent of women have the body type advertisers see as ideal. This leaves female surfers feeling like they have to conform to that image, even when it’s not feasible for their body types and has nothing to do with their skills as surfers.
While the industry often focuses on their sex appeal, women who want to compete in skating and surfing lack sufficient exposure of their athletic prowess in magazines and contests. This means fewer role models for those who want to pick up the sport.
To some extent, this dearth of positive exposure can be attributed to the historical male dominance of the sports. However gender bias does not fully account for the disparate coverage of male and female riders.

 The skills gap

Former professional surfer Holly Beck told me that she prefers to watch the top men surf because their manoeuvres are a level above anything the best women can do. They’re simply more exciting to watch.
In skateboarding as well, Brodka says there truly is a skills gap between the best female and male riders. It’s that gap that made Brodka initially reluctant to have her skating shot by a staff photographer for a legitimate skateboarding company.
“I knew the level at which the rest of the team skated and I knew I was nowhere near that level,” Brodka explains. “The thought of going to shoot with someone who is used to working with guys who are doing much more difficult tricks in difficult spots is nerve-wracking. What if I got to a spot and it took me forever to do something that a guy on the team can do switch third try?”

Amelia Brodka pushing boundaries for women's skateboarding. Photo: ESPN

Skate magazines are looking for the next new thing, a fresh trick for their photo spread, typically something that has never been done before. But since most of the girls haven’t caught up to that level, explains Brodka, where do we draw the line between publishable and not good enough to print?
So, what accounts for the skills gap? It partly circles back to lack of exposure and opportunity.
Ever since she was inspired to pick up a skateboard aged 12, Brodka skated and trained hard, culminating in preparations for her first major competition at the X-Games in 2011. But then the women’s vert event was cancelled by the organisers.
That setback helped to spark her journey to document the place of women in the skateboarding world by filming Underexposed.
Being shut out of the X-Games deprived female skaters of their key event, one many were counting on to get noticed and find sponsors.
“For some women, that contest made or broke their entire year,” Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins says in the film. If men are good enough, they can make a living without competing but that isn’t the case for women.

Sponsorship isn’t easy to come by

Paige Hareb started her own crowdfunding campaign to support her Photo: Photosport

Women struggle financially in pro surfing too. Since ZoSea took over the Association of Surfing Professionals in 2012, the huge prize money gap between male and female surfers on the World Tour has narrowed, although it still has a long way to go to achieve parity.
Additionally, women have a more difficult time than men in securing sponsorships. Last year, one of the top-ranked female surfers resorted to crowdfunding to be able to afford a shot at the world title.
New Zealander Paige Hareb finished the previous year in tenth place, yet she had trouble lining up sponsors to cover her travel and living expenses. Using a Kickstarter variant called Sportfunder, she asked for donations from her fans.
“It worked well,” said Hareb. “I got a lot of support from so many people around the world, and of course it helped me get from event to event and re-qualify for this year with a lot less stress and worry about financial support.”
Hareb agrees that women who surf professionally face greater challenges in obtaining sponsorships. “Men can mainly worry about how good they surf and/or their contest results, but I think a lot of female sponsorships are based on looks, personalities and how many followers you have on your social media.” She continued, “It’s definitely harder for women and more cutthroat. We almost have to be and do more for less.”

“We need more women-only contests”

It doesn’t help that women in both sports have fewer contests than men, and thus fewer opportunities to display their skills. Hareb laments that “when we have events with the men, they get first priority with the best waves so we never really get to show our true potential in the same waves.”
Some of the women’s tour locations also fail to provide quality surf on which to demonstrate their abilities. That’s why there was much excitement when Trestles was recently added as a women’s venue, alongside the existing men’s event.
Still, Hareb believes there’s room for improvement. “I would love to see J-Bay on the tour and I would probably take off the Brazil event – we’ve never had good waves there for the event.”

Paige Hareb in the Roxy Pro Gold Coast 2009. Photo: surf.co.nz

She’d also like more women-only competitions, “only because if the waves are really good then we know we would actually get to compete in them!”
On the skateboarding side, Brodka has seen progress since her contest at the X-Games was cancelled. “I am very grateful that we are now a part of more events, [but] I wouldn’t say that things are equal yet”, she says.
“I think that as we continue to show that women’s skateboarding is growing in terms of participants, value and the level of skateboarding, we will start to get more practice time and a prize purse that is at least slightly comparable to the guys.”

Getting people talking

The goal of Underexposed was “to get more people talking and thinking about women’s skateboarding”. That’s happened.
It’s also enabled Brodka to create a women’s skateboarding event called EXPOSURE, now in its third year, that provides a showcase for female skaters while raising funds for survivors of domestic violence.
“A lot of growth has happened in the past few years, and it is really inspiring!” Brodka said. There’s now a new generation of 7 to 16 year old girls who are pushing the level of female skateboarding around the globe.
As a result, more companies, non profit organisations and governments are now supportive of women’s skateboarding.

While there is still a long way to go before women are on a near-equal footing with men, opportunities and exposure for female boardriders have come far since trailblazers like Marge Calhoun and Elissa Steamer took to the waves and the ramps. The future is looking brighter for the women of surf and skate.
If you’re in the California area, get on down to the EXPOSURE women’s skate event on Saturday 8 November 2014 at the Encinitas YMCA in San Diego, California. There’s going to be free skate clinics, yoga sessions, amateur and pro vert and bowl events plus pro skater signings.

15 October 2014

On Fire and On Camera

Yesterday's session was one of my best ever. I was in sync with the sea and surfing well, from the moment I paddled out and a SUPer who'd just ended his ride in the water said "Hi." No dude, I'm not looking at you; I'm looking at that wave that's swinging right to me, and with a few strokes, I was in and riding. My hair didn't even get wet until I'd surfed four fine lefts with lots of turns. The waves were smaller than Monday, only about shoulder high, but so much fun!

After countless rides, I dashed up the cobblestone beach ahead of the shorepound and found a photographer waiting. Marc Eyherabide said he'd taken some shots of me. I was almost afraid to look lest they show I was only ripping in my mind and not in reality, but they're not half bad.