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Nat goes surfing with four world champions. This is what goes down.

Tyler Wright surfing

 

It wasn’t so long ago that there were no women’s surfing events. At all.

Surfing was something that was left to the boys. They gathered up their boards, zipped up their steamers and stepped out into the water. Together, they developed new tricks. They conquered huge waves and small waves and everything in between.

By the 1970s, there were a few female surfers. But they were so far in the minority that they had to compete in professional men’s events. None of them had sponsorships. Few were recognised for how talented they were – despite the fact that women are just as capable of the most difficult maneuvers on surfboards as men.

Finally, in the late 70s, the ASP (the Association of Surfing Professionals) introduced a women’s division, where surfers such as Layne Beachley were able to compete. But despite this, women still made up only five to eight per cent of surfers during the 80s and 90s.

These days, it’s more like 20 per cent. And it’s only growing from here. More and more women are getting involved in surfing, and the surf industry – which used to ignore women completely – is now sitting up and taking notice. Rather than being a novelty, women now influence a whole lot of surf brands, who make products especially for our female surfers.

And damn do we have some AMAZING female surfers.

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited along to go surfing with some of the best of the best. I was stoked. I used to surf quite a bit when I was younger – in high school, I did surfing lessons every week at my local beach. I had a beautiful instructor. I forget his name now, but he was super cute and super blonde and my fifteen-year-old self was madly in love with him.

We used to grab our boards and drag them all the way down to the end of the beach – next to the rock pools, where the tide would take you straight out the back and tip you onto the nicest waves. For two hours, in the sun, in the rain, in the cold… we’d surf.

I loved it. I love being in the water in general – I feel much more at home there, for whatever reasons – but I especially loved surfing. That feeling of getting up on your board and maneuvering your way to the shore is unlike anything else. Exhilarating is probably the best word to describe it, but even that doesn’t quite do it justice.

I don’t surf much these days. It takes a fair bit of time and effort that I just haven’t been able to hand over in the last few years of my life. But I still follow the sport really closely. It’s beautiful, it’s dynamic, it’s powerful, and it’s inspirational to watch some of the world’s best female surfers doing what they love most.

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And when I got the chance to get back out in the water with four of the girls from Rip Curl’s surf team, I couldn’t get out in the water fast enough.

Here’s a bit about each of the girls:

BETHANY HAMILTON

Home: Kauai, Hawaii
Age: 23

At the age of 13, Bethany’s arm was taken by a 14-foot-long tiger shark while surfing at home in Kauai. Through sheer determination and faith, she was soon back in the water and has continued her love of surfing ever since. In 2011, Bethany’s autobiography ‘Soul Surfer’ became a successful feature film and saw her become one of the most famous sportspeople, ever.

ALANA BLANCHARD

Home: Kauai, Hawaii
Age: 23

As one of the most recognized surfers in the world, Alana is a very busy human. While surfing the planet on the ASP World Championship Tour, so far in 2013 the super funny and incredibly talented Hawaiian has been featured in the famous Sports Illustrated Swim issue, starred in her own ‘Network A’ TV series, collaborated with Rip Curl on her latest ‘Alana’s Closet’ bikini collection and entertained more than 650,000 Instagram followers.

NIKKI VAN DIJK

Home: Phillip Island, Victoria
Age: 18

In 2014 the ASP Women’s World Tour will welcome freshly qualified Nikki van Dijk as a new addition to the Top 17. Hailing from the cold waters of Phillip Island in Victoria, Nikki is bursting with talent and commitment; qualities that will no doubt see the 2013 ASP World Junior Champion achieve her dreams. Sharing her passion for surfing in the award winning surf film called ‘First Love’, Nikki is focused, hungry for victory and always ready to have a whole lot of fun.

TYLER WRIGHT

Home: Culburra, New South Wales
Age: 19

At age 14, Tyler became the youngest surfer to ever win an ASP World Championship Tour event. At 16, she qualified for the world tour. At 17, she was the ASP Rookie of the Year. Now 19, this high achieving teenager has two goals; a World Title and having the most fun she possibly can. Tyler is a part of a new revolution in female surfing; expect to see her leading the charge into the future.

And here they are showing off their skills in the water:

The four of them helped me, and a whole lot of other journalists/bloggers, get back into the swing of things at Manly Beach. Here we all are for a group pic:

I loved surfing with the girls. Their passion and pure joy at being in the water is so obvious; they clapped and cheered when we stood up on our boards, and encouraged me to head out the back to catch some unbroken waves – something that always really freaked me out back in my high school days.

That’s Nat! Kidding. It’s Alana Blanchard surfing.

As a brand, Rip Curl are doing such great things in supporting women’s surfing and making sure these women have a platform from which they can show off their skills. And I was especially excited to hear about the new bikini collection they’ve launched.

You see – Ripcurl realised that it’s kind of majorly impractical for women to surf in regular bikinis. Because little triangle bikinis fall off. And the ties untie themselves. And it’s just not a good situation all round.

So they launched the My Mirage Bikini collection – tops that are crossed at the back, that are sewn in place, that are practical and sporty and STAY PUT as opposed to sliding all over the place. The bikinis are also made of a kind of lycra that provides UV protection and protects from the effects of the sun; and finally, the quick-dry fabric keeps your carseat dry when you get in your car after your surf sesh.

Clever. Very clever. All the girls wore these bikinis and Ripcurl wetsuits when I surfed with them last week and they stayed put. Love it. And love surfing. If you’ve never tried it before – try it yesterday. It might just be exactly what you need in your life.

As for what else is happening in women’s sport this week…

– This week, it was made official – Australia will host the 2015 Netball World Cup. A launch was held during the week for key officials to launch the event’s brand identity and logo.

The Netball  World  Cup  is  held  every  four  years and  is contested by the top 16 netball nations, as it’s such a key event in international netball. The last time it was held in Australia was in 1991.

– The Westfield Matildas will meet China in two matches over the coming week as part of their ongoing preparation for next year’s AFC Asian Cup, which doubles as FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 qualifying. They will play China at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Sunday 24 November (3pm), and at Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta on Wednesday 27 November (7pm).

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