13-year-old Olive Bowers isn’t afraid of the waves. A keen surfer, she can be found down at the beach with the boys – and other female surfers – during summer.
The year eight student also isn’t afraid to tell people what she really thinks.
After reading a recent issue of Tracks magazine – the self-proclaimed “surfer’s bible” – Olive was disgruntled when she realised how little coverage of actual women’s surfing there was in the mag.
Olive was even more troubled when she visited the website and clicked on a tab titled “Girls” – only to be shown pages of images of semi-naked women without so much as a surfboard in sight.
But rather than being quietly disappointed, Olive decided to speak out and write a letter to the magazine. Her letter, posted on her mother’s Facebook page, read:
Dear Tracks Surf Magazine,
I want to bluntly address the way you represent women in your magazine. I am a surfer, my dad surfs and my brother has just started surfing.
Reading a Tracks magazine I found at my friend’s holiday house, the only photo of a woman I could find was ‘’Girl of the Month’’. She wasn’t surfing or even remotely near a beach. Since then I have seen some footage of Stephanie Gilmore surfing on your website, but that’s barely a start.
I clicked on your web page titled ‘’Girls’’ hoping I might find some women surfers and what they were up to, but it entered into pages and pages of semi-naked, non-surfing girls.
These images create a culture in which boys, men and even girls reading your magazine will think that all girls are valued for is their appearance.
My posse of female surfers and I are going to spread the word and refuse to purchase or promote Tracks magazine. It’s a shame that you can’t see the benefits of an inclusive surf culture that in fact, would add a whole lot of numbers to your subscription list.
I urge you to give much more coverage to the exciting women surfers out there, not just scantily clad women (who may be great on the waves, but we’ll never know).
I would subscribe to your magazine if only I felt that women were valued as athletes instead of dolls. This change would only bring good.
Luke Kennedy, editor of Tracks magazine, spoke to Fairfax and said that, “’obviously [women] not our primary audience. We have written extensively about female surfers in the past.”
This is not the first time that the surfing industry has stirred up controversy for appearing not to take female surfers seriously. In July last year, a Roxy Pro ad caused an uproar when – instead of promoting their competition with footage of women actually surfing – it focused on gratuitous shots of a female surfer’s behind.
Surfers are athletes. What they do requires skill, and training, and early mornings, and (one would think) quite a bit of bravery. So maybe it’s time female athletes start being shown the respect they deserve.
Less soft porn, and more surfing.
Here are some of the world’s best female surfing tearing up the waves. With surfboards. And wetsuits.