Women’s Surfing – Gaining Acceptance In A Male Dominated Sport

Copyright 2006 Tobey Brown

Where men used to be the Big Kahunas’ or expert surfers, though, things are adjusting for gender today. At the beginning of 2004, the top 20 male pro surfers averaged about $90,000 each in purse money, with former world champion Kelly Slater breaking the $1 million ceiling. Meanwhile among women pro surfers’ salaries, the top 20 were reported to have averaged roughly $20,000 per year but could and still can earn much more in endorsements. Noteworthy is that Australia’s Layne Beachley, the only surfer or either gender to win six consecutive world titles, has earned more than $440,000 in purses.

Opportunities for Women

Many women are hitting the beaches thanks to pro influences that have helped promote surfing. The introduction of professional surfing equipment for the ladies, too, has helped advance the cause; for example, the twin-fin board was designed to be lightweight, compact and easier to turn than the single fin.

Above all, though, it’s been the professional women surfers themselves who have been mainly responsible for a change in public attitude. Two top examples are Jericho Poppler of Long Beach, California and Rell Sunn, who started surfing at age 4, of Makaha Beach, Hawaii. In the mid 60’s, people both thought these ladies were strange,’ competing in an almost totally male-dominated sport.

Strange or not, Jericho won the 1970 U.S. Women’s Champion and 1976 World Champion. And Rell, “The Queen of Makaha,” became Hawaii’s number one woman-amateur surfer for five years, joined first women’s pro tour in 1975. Both these ladies were responsible for getting women’s professional surfing underway.

Growth of professionalism in their surfing industry meant they needed to travel and network, sharing their world views with worldwide audiences, winning public support.

Both dynamic ladies, Jericho and Rell Sunn became known as excellent ambassadors of surfing,’ and also champions for preserving the ocean environment.

Today female surfers, just like their male counterparts, embrace surfing worldwide.

And just like the men, their skills range from amateur to accomplished professional levels, as they compete for cash prizes and corporate sponsorships in the same manner.

There is a large market for women’s clothing and equipment, for instance. With the major companies branching off and creating women’s lines, you have Roxy, Rip Curl Girl and Billabong Girl, as well as many others. The results have meant more opportunities for sponsorships and earning income and increased amounts – from surfing.

Comments are closed.