A swell of surf events gathers this month: there’s Surfana Festival in the Netherlands (6–8 September); the World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan (7–15 September); and Surf Ranch Pro at Lemoore, California’s new, one-of-a-kind, man-made wave pool (19–22 September).
As for who’s riding those waves, increasingly, it’s women: among under-19s, there are more girls than boys surfing now, while the number of female surfers aged 65+ has soared 45 per cent since 2010. This growing global “surf sisterhood” – including a Moroccan Muslim surf coach and Sri Lanka’s first female longboarder – is profiled in a new coffee table tome by Carolina Amell called Surf Like a Girl, published by Prestel.
Building up to its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, surfing’s already showing up other sports (hello, FIFA) when it comes to gender equality – the World Surfing League introduced pay parity this year. The next hurdle? Brands backing only the prettiest contestants. Silvana Lima is one of many pro surfers to complain: “If you don’t look like a model, you end up without a sponsor.” As diversity-focused surf camps and zines (Seawitches, Brown Girl Surf) proliferate, the pressure is mounting on sponsors to ditch the “bikini babe” stereotype and prioritise talent.