The image of a female surfer has long been synonymous with tanned limbs, sun kissed hair, and tiny, tiny bikini bottoms.
While their male counterparts typically wear knee-length board shorts, the women often wear bikinis, and revealing photos of their bodies taken during competitions aren’t uncommon.
But in the post #metoo era, sexual harassment is a central concern of the World Surf League, who met during the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast. The meeting, according to surfing publication Stab Magazine, “was a refresher on the rules and responsibilities of all WSL employees,” particularly when it comes to conduct towards women.
In the wake of the meeting, the human resources department have instructed cinematographers to “exercise discretion” when filming female surfers in competition – a notoriously difficult task given the nature of a live broadcast. They’ve been asked to zoom out during “bottom turns” or “duck dives,” given these are two manoeuvres that expose a person’s behind to the camera.
This “common sense” approach also asks cinematographers to feature women who wear bikinis predominantly in wide shots, with those who surf in board shorts taking up a majority of the screen.
Researchers like Dr Roslyn Franklin have been adamant that the sexualisation of women in surfing contributes to them not being taken seriously in the sport.
In June 2015, Franklin told ABC, “When you look at how men are portrayed and women are portrayed, particularly in magazines and on websites, usually the men are portrayed in the act of doing the sporting performance and the women are shown in their bikinis or a view from behind.”
“The sexualisation of the sport doesn’t make people want to take part in the sport,” she said.
“I guess it’s great for sponsors because they sell magazines, but when you get down to spectators they want to see that great performance.”
Interestingly, a number of elite surfers, including Hawaiian Coco Ho, and Australians Bronte Macaulay and Keely Andrew, often compete in shorts or wetsuits, as well as a rash shirt.
At present, women are paid 40 per cent less than men for winning a surfing tournament, and perhaps slight changes to the way they’re represented in the sport will go some way towards establishing them as equal competitors.