Words: Mimi LaMontagne
The sport of female surfing has been in turmoil over the past few days. The media and the public have seen pandemonium and created uproar, pointing fingers and speaking for the sport. We thought it might be prudent to talk to those actually in the sport, and see what they have to say about the happenings surrounding their names and their career.
After a few groggy 3am phone calls and an inordinate amount of social-media-ing, we managed to scrape a bit of information from the land of vino and croissants. Paige Hareb and Lakey Peterson give their thoughts…
I’ve been in France for nearly three weeks now, and when we first got here it was so cold, bad and raining. The seawater was so dirty and polluted that a guy got staph from surfing at Grande Plage in Biarritz. He ended up losing his eye. It’s now completely changed to long, hot summer days with warm, cleaner water… so it’s pretty nice, just no waves! France reminds me a bit of home (Paige is from New Zealand). I love the French way, but I’ve been eating way too many baguettes and coffee with whipped cream.
It’s frustrating flying all this way, especially being an unsponsored surfer, and having to pay for everything like flights, accommodation, rental cars… Even a four-euro coffee is nearly eight New Zealand dollars. It gets pretty crazy! I do feel sorry for Roxy and ASP because they have done such a great job, and the event has been great over the last few years, but to have it in the summer when everyone knows there are minimal waves, it’s pretty risky. After a few years here, they have finally got unlucky, really unlucky. The weeks before the contest there were great waves, and the forecasts show the swell picking up the day the contest ends as well. In a way it’s been a positive though. All of us women on tour have finally united together and have been more outspoken, so I think it’s helping us move forward and grow in a great way.
Obviously the forecast was a bummer, but you can’t control the ocean. There were waves, waves, waves, then right when the contest was supposed to start it dropped off. It comes back up the day the contest finishes (which was officially yesterday). We had a meeting at the beginning of the week where we all tried to figure out what to do… Do we call it quits now or wait it out? We really focused on what we’re going to do in the future if this happens… It really affects the point system, especially with the World Title race so close and girls trying to re-qualify. Everyone in the ASP gets an equal 13th if a contest is canceled, and we all get one throwaway for the year. This would be most of our throwaways (last place), so we’ll have to keep the rest of them. It makes it a bit interesting for the girls going for the Title, because if they’ve had a bad result they were planning on throwing away, they’ll now have to keep it.
We got the news today that Roxy and Quiksilver have decided that because we couldn’t run the event, they’re going to put us in at Hossegor around the men’s comp. It’s really exciting and we’re 100% guaranteed waves. Having the contest in the summer isn’t really the same… It’s no one’s fault, once again just the ocean, but it’s a lot of time and effort. You have to get mentally prepared for it. To come all the way here and have it be flat, you can’t surf for five days and then it’s time for the US Open. It’s a hiccup, but what do you do?
You have the stunning opportunity to visit some really awesome bits of the world, but the wave performance has been known to be less than spectacular. Are you happy with the tour stops the female contingent has on tour?
PH: Yes, it’s amazing. I’ve pretty much been traveling the world for the last six years, so I definitely can’t complain. I always try to make the most of it too, and visit nearby places, but I think some of the girls just fly in for the week, stay in the same hotel and don’t leave the 100 meter radius bubble then fly straight back home. They’ve been traveling for years all over the world, but still have never actually seen the world, which is kind of sad. As for the women’s World Tour stops, I think they are all great for different reasons, but most of them aren’t for the reason of good surf. Of course us ladies always compare the events with the men, and it sucks, but I think next year will be different, so that’s exciting! If I could change the tour, I would have more stops where the men have theirs, make our waiting periods slightly longer and/or have our waiting period just before or just after the men’s events, so we get first choice of wave conditions. Plus more prize money.
LP: I mean, men’s surfing is bigger than women’s. There’s more prize money, etc, but that’s not something that I need to tell anyone. There are definitely better tour stops for the guys. In the past it’s been frustrating, because if you give the girls good surf we’re going to perform and we’re going to do well. Take Bells for example… people were calling it the best day in women’s surfing EVER, because we actually had waves to surf! We got to surf instead of being put in really small, bad waves. Obviously it’s going to make us look not as good. It’s something that all the girls are definitely trying to change, and we want to get better locations. As ASP is changing, with the new CEO and stuff, it’s getting a lot better.
The Roxy Pro, Steph Gilmore, teaser. What are your thoughts?
PH: Roxy definitely got a lot of press out of it, and it wasn’t positive, but any news is good news, right? Anyways, has anyone seen the second teaser to it!? Roxy just shouldn’t have waited so many days. They should have put the second teaser out the next day and it would have made more sense, everyone wouldn’t have blown up so much. I like the first teaser of Steph! It’s pretty much what us women do haha. Even if they had put just one wave at the end of it, it would have been fine. They probably should have… I guess they jinxed themselves! No waves in the teaser and no waves in the comp!
LP: Things got blown out of proportion. Roxy’s idea of what they wanted it to be, and I’ve talked to Steph a little about it as well, was just to show that the sport is now very feminine and we are women and we want to be taken as women athletes. That’s what they really wanted to show. I watched it, I hadn’t seen it and then I started seeing all the commotion so I thought I better. And I think it’s beautifully shot, all the footage is really high quality and well thought out, and yeah, of course they could have put some stuff of Steph surfing, but they released another one right afterwards. People just didn’t look at it, and Steph was totally ripping! So ok, you have the first half of this webisode, or whatever, and if you watch the second half it’s surfing. It got blown out of proportion and that happens. I guess it just won’t happen again…
Objectification or publicity?
PH: Everyone has viewed it differently. You’re always going to get different opinions, no matter what you do. We’re all human, and you can’t please everyone. Maybe Roxy marketing should have thought more about their plan, but at the end of the day they got a lot of publicity. If you like it you like it, if you don’t then get over it. It’s a two minute video in you’re entire life… woah! Everyone is always too serious, about everything!
LP: There’s a balance and the media jumps on a lot of stuff. Whatever they can find, they’ll just jump on. The media is great and I appreciate everything they do, but people can get too serious about it all. I mean, it’s great to have the sport taken as a real professional sport, rather than just a lifestyle. It’s great to see a little of that! But find a balance, it’s not that bad. Calm down, take a breath!
To the public...
PH: Enjoy it for what it is. Let’s all look forward to next year, I think you will be surprised and impressed. Please just relax, and stop being so serious. Go for a surf!
LP: I would say keep watching. We’ve had a bunch of meetings lately and there are a bunch of really, really exciting stuff in the pipeline for surfing. For the females especially… there’s so much room to grow! What were hearing is so exciting. I just hope everyone keeps supporting us and will watch the sport grow into something really special, what we’ve always wanted it to be, because were just scratching the surface of that right now.