Things are not just changing, they've changed…
The writer JP Currie took a look at Women’s Big-Wave surfing and found it, in the words of Norman Mailer, “Quaintsy Goysy, tiny, too dykily psychotic, crippled, creepish, fashionable, frigid, outer-Baroque, maqueillé in mannequin’s whimsy, or else bright and stillborn”.
Or something like that.
Maybe a fey impersonation of a Man’s manly activity. A crime against physiological reality, against Biology herself.
And just like Mailer and his pals used to review each others books with an unstinting honesty that could lead to a headbutt or Gore Vidals’ “Here comes the tiny fist!” I wish to call bullshit on the Scotsman.
His experience was of brothers and a stoic Maw.
Mine was of strong women too, a sister who devoted herself to martial arts training. By the age of 15 I had already experienced that woozy deep frozen feeling of coming to after being knocked out cold. This time by a roundhouse kick to the head from old sis. The last time I earned her ire. I’ve seen her break bricks with a hand, fight with swords, sticks, staffs. She is, like a plethora of female fighters in MMA, bad-ass. JP uses that as a plank in his argument that women don’t belong in the male dominated world of fighting. I see it as exactly the opposite: that with the right training and dedication a woman can develop into a superb fighter. A pro who can draw a crowd and a fan base.
Women’s sport is on the upward trajectory, objective fact. Pro sporting leagues are springing up everywhere, like it or not. Big-wave surfing likewise. It’s not a new beginning, but a second or even third coming. Hawaiian surf gals of the 60’s and 70’s: Betty Depolito, Lynn Boyer, Margo Oberg shredded the North Shore before ultra-machismo became the default social position. The “physiological barrier” to women surfing big waves is a strangely fluid concept.
Man’s World, men’s rules. I went straight from the University halls, the drinking and womanising cosseted train wreck where the “rules” seem to vary from day to day, depending on who had the money and the connections to buy themselves out of whatever trouble they got themselves into, to a life at sea.
The cook, a wiry little hardnut chick who might have been twenty, might have been 40, jumped up on the tray, dodged the scything tail, which was as big as she was, and secured a noose around it. They winched it straight up in the air with the deck winch and then the engineer got a 303 and started firing rounds into the head. It stopped thrashing and the cook dropped it onto the deck. I was so distraught I had to have a cry wank in the wheelhouse during the dog watch.
Twenty years old, dumb as a box of rocks, as green as the greenest greenhorn who’s ever found themselves hundred of miles at sea for months at a time. First shot, on the first night’s fishing on the ironically named FV Atlantic and the cod ends were overflowing. I could see a large inchoate object in the bag and when we spilled the bags onto the deck trays 18 feet of tiger shark flopped out like a psychotic newborn foal onto the tray.
The skipper was apoplectic.
“Get that fucking thing off the tray! Get that fucking thing off!”
I just stood there, rooted to the spot, frozen with fear.
It was thrashing side to side, swiping prawns everywhere. Snapping its jaws. Looking at me with the coldest blackest eyes.
The cook, a wiry little hard-nut chick who might have been twenty, might have been 40, jumped up on the tray, dodged the scything tail, which was as big as she was, and secured a noose around it. They winched it straight up in the air with the deck winch and then the engineer got a 303 and started firing rounds into the head. It stopped thrashing and the cook dropped it onto the deck. I was so distraught I had to have a cry wank in the wheelhouse during the dog watch.
In the morning, we cut the jaws out and dumped it overboard. The cook gave me a look that could have opened a clam across a crowded room and said, nothing. Man’s world, mens rules.
Yeah, but nah.
I still remember the fantasies that I could surf better than the women pro’s, or that most men could. You still see and hear it today. Then Tyler Wright moved to town and I started sharing the line-up with her on the reg. She was 16. Down the drain went that little fantasy. The biggest day of the year at my local last year there were more 17-year-old girls on the peak than young studs supposedly at the peak of their testosterone levels etc etc.
Things are not just changing, they’ve changed. Maybe not everywhere, but Australia, Hawaii, maybe California.
I don’t know Flick Palmateer that well, but I met her a bit over a year ago. She was chilling by a pandanus at the Point, with a busted knee. We were all pretty irie on some fine CBD oil, if memory serves. Deep in my terrible male psyche maybe I felt a scintilla of superiority at going straight on some six-to-eight-foot Point surf while Flick was lounging in the sun, being a mega babe, a prototypical “Airhead YouTuber and Instagram model.”
Two weeks later, Flick was weaponising her gender and bumrushing the 18-wheeler at Jaws shown in the photo of Currie’s article. I was watching from the safety of the lounge room.
That was 2017.
Women caught more waves, made more waves, that year, in more serviceable conditions. 2018 was a different beast. Currie claims a backward step for women’s big-wave surfing and that as a spectacle it was a failure.
I watched with my daughter and wife, both surfers. Neither show a scintilla of interest in men’s WSL surfing. Both were transfixed by the spectacle. We should be careful about calling it a bit shit because it’s a live version of kook slams. Neither Billy Kemper or Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker made a wave in the following heat. Billy Kemper won the event the next day without making a wave in the Final.
Kook slams in giant surf are a non-discriminatory event.
Currie’s most contentious claim is that somehow the gals hucking the ledge at Jaws, fighting to be included at Mavs are somehow doing womenkind a disservice. That seems a queer piece of logic to me.
If Israeli chicks and Peshmerga babes want to defend the homeland or put the fear of Allah into ISIS kooks then good luck to them.
Big-wave gals likewise. Biology can handle a warm gun.