The Rise Of Girls Surf Schools
With Aussie surf champions like Sally Fitzgibbon and Tyler Wright carving out names for themselves across the surfing world, more and more women are getting interested in riding the waves.
Both professional and recreational surfing have always been dominated by men, which has left many women intimidated about getting onto a board for the first time, let alone dealing with the mixed reception that professional female surfers have dealt with through the years.
But over the years, a number of champions (both literally and figuratively) have helped women get their start.
One of the first – and largest – events promoting women on boards is Rip Curl’s annual Girls Go Surfing Day. Launched in the mid-90s, it is now the world’s largest event-based surfing program.
“The event has been running for over 20 years and is a fantastic opportunity for local females to participate in surfing,” the official website says.
“Essentially a “grass-roots” learn-to-surf program targeting both non-surfers and beginners of all ages, the Girls Go Surfing Days encourages you to undertake professional tuition delivered exclusively through Surfing Australia’s national network of Surf Schools.”
But since then, a wider range of year-round surf schools for women have also cropped up, including Bondi’s very own success story: the Bondi Girls Surf Riders (BGSR).
This school was formed in 1999 by prominent surfing figures like Brenda Miley, Jo Evenden and Kylie Roberts.
“BGSR has had a number of great surfers including Kaye Llewelyn and Kathy Newman competing in the club,” the club’s website says.
“[Three] of our original juniors Jessi Miley Dyer, Nicola Atherton and Claire Normanhave gone on to have careers in pro surfing.”
While there were very few girls surf schools around when this school was first founded at Bondi Beach, now you can pretty much learn to surf with other women anywhere in Australia.
There is also a growing trend towards women-only surf retreats around the world.
In Nicaragua, for example, there is CHICABRAVA, a “surf and yoga retreat for adventurous women who appreciate comfort as well as challenge.” Closer to home, but still overseas, are the many Bali retreats for women, like Surf Goddess Retreats, Girls on Boards Surf Retreats and Escape Haven, which also offers yoga lessons, meditation sessions, massages, most food and a full-day tour.
These retreats are becoming incredibly popular with a diverse range of women, suggesting perception of the surf could be changing for the better. While there may still typically be more men on the waves, it is clear there is balance if you know where to look.