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Roxy: Focus on Women Surfing

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By Sally Smith-Weymouth

There is still lots of work to be done when it comes to women’s equality, not only in this great nation of ours but across the world over. 

When I was growing up, the phrase, “You’ve come a long way baby!” was used to sell cigarettes for Virginia Slims - juxtaposing a hip young woman smoking a cigarette against a woman whose lot in life was the drudgery of cleaning house and washing clothes by hand. 

That was the late 1960s and early 1970s. Even though Virginia Slims thought women had come a long way - at least far enough to smoke their cigarettes in public - today, women in the United States are still fighting for equal pay for equal work, facing loss of healthcare clinics, and, in some states like Texas, barriers to voting! 

So, what’s this got to do with a woman who surfs? Well, let me tell you—in the surfing world, women who are on the Association of Surfing Professionals circuit earn considerably less than their male counterparts and misogyny is alive and well in the world of surf industry advertising. 

The objectification of women who surf was no more apparent than in the trailer for the 2013 Roxy Biarritz Pro contest. The trailer features Stephanie Gilmore, five time world champion on the ASP women’s tour. The ad shows Stephanie lying in bed scantily clad, as she rolls around a bit and then gets up to disrobe, shower, get dressed, drive off to her competition in an expensive car, waxes her board while we still see only breasts and no face as she tends to this chore, and then she slips on her pink rashguard - one last peak at the breasts - and paddles out into the ocean. Not a wave to be seen. No surfing involved. All shots eliminate Stephanie’s face and focus on her legs, butt, and breasts.  

Now, don’t get me wrong. I find the physical human form to be pleasing to look at - male and female. And I do respect Stephanie’s right to present herself however she feels appropriate and am glad she is comfortable in her self and body. However, the hyper-sexualization of this trailer set off a firestorm of comments on social media. I first saw the trailer from the Facebook page Miss Representation. I shared the link on my Paradise Surf Facebook page and soon saw in my news feed that champion surfer Cori Schumacher had mounted a petition campaign on Change.org. 

Cori’s goal was to reach 20,000 signatures asking Roxy to stop using sex to sell it’s brand. Cori promised to deliver the petition personally to Roxy headquarters, which she did in mid-September, along with Krista Comer, Professor of Literature and Women’s Studies at Rice University in Texas, and author of Surfer Girls in the New World Order

Cori and Krista met with the VP and Senior VP of marketing at Roxy for over two hours. By Cori’s account the two Veeps listened and seemed genuinely concerned and promised to read the all the comments and the 45-page packet of materials that Cori and Krista brought for them. The packet contained up to date research on the sexualization of women in media and studies showing that sex does not sell products or events but does a great job of selling sex. 

A couple of weeks ago Roxy issued their response to Cori Schumacher's petition. Let’s just say it read like canned corn! Typical corporate drivel that seeks to elevate their corporate brand as the leader in women’s surfing. While they may rank themselves as the top women’s brand in surfing lifestyle clothing, they could and should do more to promote women’s surfing as a competitive sport and they should pay their team members equally. When a woman surfs Teahupoo, the wave there does not give deference to one sex or the other. It is the surfer’s skill and sheer guts to ride the heavy wave that makes the surfing exciting and intense no matter the surfer’s gender. 

So here is Roxy, an über brand among surf brands, with an opportunity to go the way of GoDaddy (a brand I despised until I heard they were changing their hyper-sexual ad campaigns). Rather than using sexual imagery of a woman with no face to sell a surfing event, they could be promoting their team riders as athletes with strong, positive core values about their sport and what it takes to be a contender. If Roxy Quiksilver spent as much money promoting women’s surfing events as they do men’s, and paying women champions the same as they do the men, well, then all things would be equal and I see no harm in that. 

I am optimistic about the future, however. A paradigm shift is afoot, I can feel it. It is not something that changes in a mere few days or even years, it takes generations. I see faces in the younger generations that are owning their power and using it for the greater good. Faces like Cori Schumacher and Easkey Britton. These young, passionate, women surfers are leading the charge in looking at our world in a way that sees right human relations—gender equality on all levels—as paramount to a more peaceful world in which to live. 

Read Cori’s blog. Follow Brown Girl Surf. Check out The Wahine Project, a fantastic local organization that promotes surfing as a woman’s sport. Finally, read this cool 2011 New York Times article on women in Palestine going to the ocean for the very first time. Empowering! 

Sally Smith-Weymouth is the owner of the legendary and newly reborn Paradise Surf, and resides in Santa Cruz, CA.
Visit the Paradise Surf Facebook Page.
And Follow ParadiseSurfSC on Twitter.

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Schwan Lagoon is bursting with bird-life,maybe brought on by the bloom of duckweed. Cormorants by the hundreds are congregating in the Eucalyptus Trees found along the eastern shoreline. Mallards and other ducks are cruising with Coots through the iridescent and brilliant green of the duckweed,creating odd scenarios in which the birds appear to be cruising on a glowing green mat.
The quantity of birds becomes a lively air show around the sunset hours with many Cormorants looking to perch in the trees and being shooed away by the residents,only to dive downward, swing up, and try again, before finding purchase. Occasional formations of Pelicans join in the flying fun as well as the omnipresent and outrageously gifted Gulls,practicing their aeronautics at a high level. Lone Great Blue Herons stand still in the shimmering green while Red Wing Blackbirds clamor with their well known trill/whistle calls from the western neighborhood. Crows claim the large Live Oak trees to the north as only crows can do and are the guardians of these perches,ruffling feathers over intruders...or is this their way of sharing?..grudgingly?
Various small birds beyond my keying ability flit around eating the wild honeysuckle seeds. Even the Poison Oak is a contributor with its intense red showing so well against the forest greens,the blue and green of the lagoon backdrop, and the yellows of the Willows,as well as providing food with its seeds. The reed grasses along the shorelines provide ample hiding for little creatures and outline artistically the glowing green.
Check it out.The local say they haven't seen such a show in years. Enter at the far end of the Simpkins parking lot or walk down the tracks from 7th Ave.