Is women's surfing about to get way less sexist?

Carissa Moore in Western Oz, credit: ASP
Carissa Moore in Western Oz, credit: ASP

Surfing has always been sexy and quite right too but in 2013 the word seemed to be attacking women’s surfing like a crazy one-dimensional monster virus, powered by a teenage boy’s most obvious thoughts. From the endless ass-shot selfies on instagram to twerking at contest warm ups, and young girls writing slutty slogans on their bodies (yes this all happened!), it made the question “Are female surfers now the Hooters waitresses of the sea?” an entirely legitimate one to ask. And we weren’t the only ones asking whether using sex to sell surfing was actually helping brands shift more bikinis and more importantly whether it was good for women’s surfing as Carissa Moore got into here.

But we have good news for 2014 folks! And it’s coming from the top. The ASP World Tour has new owners, new title sponsors and most excitingly a new vision for the women’s side of the sport, which includes better waves, equal prize money to the dudes and shifting the focus to the girls’ radness as athletes rather just as disposable internet pin up fodder (the new CEO Paul Speaker has daughters which has got to help right?). We checked in with Jessi Miley-Dyer, now the deputy commissioner of the ASP World Tour, to find out more:

I love the new ASP web site and the fact the guys are shot topless but the girls aren’t in bikinis, is that part of a conscious effort from you guys to move away from the sexy surfer girl image?

I think the ASP is cognisant of the fact that the ASP Top 17 are some of the most talented, hard-working, intelligent and beautiful athletes in all of sports. We want to celebrate all aspects of our surfers.

Has that change come from pressure from the girls or from the new CEO Paul Speaker as he has daughters doesn’t he?

There are a lot of factors that contribute to this shift for women’s surfing. The new ASP administration, inclusive of our senior executives and board members, are very focused on celebrating women’s surfing in the coming years. They see value in it from both a professional and personal level.

Paul Speaker has promised equality for female surfers, what form will that take?

Absolutely and this takes a few forms. First and foremost was elevating the platform for them to perform on. More events and a commitment to quality. In 2014 alone, we have the addition of Fiji, Trestles and Maui to the schedule as well as the shift from Biarritz in Summer to Hossegor in the Fall. The world’s best female surfers will have an amazing opportunity to showcase their skills this season. Second is the commitment to the media platform – all events will receive the same commentary, website, webcast and production values as the men’s tour does. Finally, the ASP has elevated prize money from US$120,000 per event to US$250,000 making professional surfing the only global sport to have absolute parity between men’s and women’s prize purses. (ie. 36-man field at $500,000 and 18-woman field at $250,000).

That’s awesome about the prize money and so cool to see 10 events and the addition of Trestles, Hossegor, Fiji and the return of Maui. How did that specifically come about? 

The talent level of the ASP Top 17 absolutely warrants a quality wave tour for them. I’m a huge advocate of putting the girls in great waves and seeing something special. The new ASP management feel the same.

How will it change the kind of surfing we see on tour?

Different waves favour different styles of surfing – and hence, different surfers. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses as an athlete. As keen observers of the men’s tour would have noticed, we expect the aerialists to do well at Trestles and the chargers to do well at Cloudbreak. The women’s WCT has predominantly been held in beachbreaks over recent years, and I will predict right now that the potential for a ratings shakeup is very high with the addition of Fiji. I think we’ll see some movement in the Top 10, absolutely.

Do you think chargers like Keala Kennelly might try to come back on the tour?

It’s a hard one. KK was a great addition to women’s surfing while she was on tour – she charged, she did airs, she was game-changing. That said, the talent level on tour these days is incredibly high. It has grown exponentially the past few seasons and I think that anyone who steps away from a season or two would have a hard time rejoining the ranks. The performance levels are just so high.

How can we get more young girls into surfing?

By promoting the role models that we have on tour. This year is going to be a game changer.

And what can we expect from the Margaret River event?

Margaret River has been a staple on the ASP Qualification Series (QS) for several years now and joined the women’s ASP WCT schedule last season. West Oz is known for its beauty and raw power. The waves are solid and the surfers will be tested in a variety of conditions.

This Is Me: APS Women's World Tour Manager Jessi Miley-Dyer
Jessi Miley-Dyer

Tune in to all the women’s events on the Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour LIVE on aspworldtour.com and for all the best comment keep checking back here!

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