They all had struggles to find the perfect gear for surfing that suited their body but now are an inspiration for many.
Surfing is a widely loved sport, especially in the coastal areas of the United States. It's a bonding time for families, friends and people who usually have busy schedules. It gives them time to enjoy each other's company and beat the heat in summer in the ocean waves. However, surfing has long been associated with stereotypical beauty and body standards. Women are always shown as hairless and skinny in surfing outfits while men are displayed as muscular and having a perfect body for the surfing customer. Such unrealistic standards often pose great challenges for people with natural body shapes and hair.
Kanoa Greene also developed these insecurities after being born into a surfing family. She thought she never belonged in the ocean, reports CNN. She said, "I’m Hawaiian, and surfing has been part of my family from the beginning. My uncle is a well-known surfer in Hawaii, and so I was immersed in that world." Greene spent a lot of time at the beach growing up in Orlando, Florida, surrounded by surf culture. Despite her desire to surf, she grew up believing that surfing was not a place for her. She said, "I never saw anyone who looked like me out there. Surfing to me was one of those that was really far-fetched. You know, we are so conditioned to see a certain type of body doing it."
She ultimately decided to give surfing a try after years of fantasizing about riding the waves, however, it took Greene another two years to jump into the sea since she couldn't locate surfwear that fit her. Greene said that really "discouraged her" as if the industry itself is telling her that she doesn't belong. She said, "t wasn’t until 2018 where I decided, ‘You know what, I’m just going to be the person that I wish I could see, whether or not I have the right outfit." Greene now works as a fitness trainer and documents her surfing adventures on social media. This wasn't an isolated experience as another woman named Elizabeth Sneed had a similar experience. She started surfing five years ago but never found the right gear for her size. She explained, "It took a bit of a toll on me because even when I would go and try to buy performance swimwear, the things were not either available in my size or, if they were, they weren’t really designed to fit my body type."
She added, "If you think about it, right, a triangle bikini with string tie bottoms is not ideal, if you have a double D chest and larger hips structure. I got to this point in my mind where I thought it was punishment for being overweight." Lauren Hill, surfer and author of “She Surf,” said, "When people say surf culture, usually they mean a very Southern California and Australia-centric culture. And when we think about that culture, we see that it’s been shaped by and for largely young, White, hetero men, who have a particular worldview, a particular definition of what quote ‘good surfing’ means." She added that its exclusionary "of lots of different kinds of people, people of color, people who are differently abled, [different] races, varying ethnicities."
Another woman, Machuca, also saw a lack of representation of women who look like her in the surf culture as she traveled the world. She now has her own line of bathing suits and is an instructor at her surf school in Sayulita, Mexico. She reached surfing to all people with different backgrounds and body sizes. Greene believes that surf businesses and the surfing community should do more to ensure individuals of all sizes feel comfortable in the sport. She said, "What happens if they’re inspired, but they go to a local surf school and they don’t have the proper gear and then they don’t have the wetsuit and then they walk away, discouraged, maybe like me, wait another two years, maybe five years, maybe never get out?"
Machuca said that there has been an increase in the representation of people of different sizes among surf bands. She said, "We’re making our moves and we’re doing things – I honestly feel like we are making … the bigger surf companies open up." Sneed added, "I know a lot of women think that if you’re older, you can’t surf either. So we’re just trying to break those barriers down and show women around the world that those kinds of things are irrelevant when it comes to the ocean space, and that they’re welcome."