Surfer Pauline Menczer was the victim of world sports’ most brutal and blatant sexism; a clear historical wrong

Should WSL atone for Pro Surfing's historical sexism?

Shot me old pal Pauline Menczer a text the other morning to congratulate her for the successful GoFundMe campaign following the premiere of the movie she stars in, Girls Can’t Surf

Me and Pauline go way back grafting a semi-honest living working as sham contractors for one of Byron Bay’s biggest shuttle bus services. Pretty hectic gig. Running a too-tight schedule rounding up tourists in Bangkok-style traffic and getting them to the steel bird on time so they could resume normal life in the city.

Menczer is one of God’s great hustlers, a tough-as-teak old-school Bondi street urchin who does not take a backward step, for anybody. Tales of her various confrontations in the surf and on the street are legendary: getting spat on in the surf, screaming matches on the streets, standing up to crooked bosses. Menczer can scrap.

As the world’s grittiest surfing champion Pauline was also the victim of maybe world sports’ most brutal and blatant sexism. A world champ who could not raise a dime in sponsorship, who received a trophy that would not make the grade for the second-hand shop at the dump. Lesbian, when that was taboo, lacking the physical accouterments that were classically assumed to stimulate the desire of a presumed male audience and thus moreorless discarded by the companies that largely funded the sport.

Bad old days.

Very bad.

A clear historical wrong, yes?

Things are very different now, of course.

Equal prize money thanks to Sophie G and Natasha Ziff.

Dual World Champ and one-time highest paid surfer on Earth, Tyler Wright, plies her trade as an openly gay athlete and basks in nothing but full-throated support from her sponsors and employer. That being the WSL, one of the most fiercely progressive organisations on Earth.

Most likely, in the near future a transgender athlete will strut the stage and will be likewise welcomed into the warm bosom of Pro Surfing.

WSL has been shameless in its cultural appropriation of the pro surfing history of the organisations which preceded it. Question: if it is going to claim the good, should it also own the bad?

Redress the wrongs and make reparations for sexist blunders like Pauline’s busted trophy and lack of financial support?

Oh, I know, slippery, slippery slope.

Ziff can’t be expected to stick his hand in his pocket to make good a World Champ who got so royally shafted by the sport she loved so had to drive buses for daily bread. Didn’t get enough to get the coastal real estate that any pro who gets within cooee of the CT now considers a birthright.

Still, even acknowledging the sexist pig managers and the sexist pig pros and the sexist pig contest organisers were no fault of Ziff or any of the revolving door CEO’s of the WSL they couldn’t pitch in and raise the 25K for the GoFundMe?

You claim ownership of every facet of the history of the sport and then let one of the true legends still alive dangle in the breeze with their cap in hand?

A bad look, I think.

Menczer herself has referenced other sports that provide more support to former stars fallen on hard times, in this case the “Men of League” program run by the governing body of Rugby League in Australia, the NRL.

Very low hanging fruit for the WSL if they wanted an easy win to generate real goodwill amongst former pros and the great unwashed.

Off the top of my head I could think of a few former stars who could very much benefit from a little hand up, and so could you.

As for the greater issue of a #Metoo style reckoning for the historical enterprise of pro surfing many questions remain.

A former women’s CT pro backgrounded me for the story but declined to be named.

According to her, and if even half of what she said is true, there are very many skeletons rattling around in very man closets.

Very many instances where consent between those with stars in their eyes and the gatekeepers with access to money and career paths were, lets say, less than enthusiastic.

Different times of course.

In the current climate maybe now some nervous moments in the dead of night for  those who took advantage and wonder if the axe of justice will fall.

Very interesting times.

Olympic surfing hopeful who had colon removed to chase Tokyo Gold wearing colostomy bag: “I used to go to the bathroom twenty times a day…I’m happy with my little bag!”

And will use custom surfboard with curved deck to fit bag… 

The story of Emirati surfer and Olympic hopeful Mohammad Rahma is a good one: ten years ago, when he was twenty-three and rehabbing a knee injury from rugby, Mo had a swing at surfing at the Wadi pool in the UAE.

You know the wave from the Globe surf flick Electric Blue Heaven. A wave described by Chas Smith as “a head-high, legitimately head-high, wave with a beefy shoulder and a lip.”

Seven years later, he was charging Mullaghmore (see below for his 2017 entry for wipeout of the year) and Nazaré. All while battling a severe case of ulcerative colitis.

“I used the bathroom from fifteen-to-twenty times a day, so my lifestyle was bad. I didn’t have any nutrition. I would feel fatigued, tired. Basically, I had no control over bowel movements. Every time I felt the urge to go to the toilet, I only had a few seconds to make it to the bathroom.”

After becoming the first pro surfer from the UAE, Mohammad competed in a number of QS events and the ISA World Championships.

However, the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling was greatly exacerbated by the colitis.

“For example, when you compete your stomach already moves by itself. But with this, it was just like the worst. I still remember, I was super late to four heats because I was on the toilet. I actually went to the bathroom like super close to the beginning of a heat, then paddled out, then I had to run back to the bathroom…. It happened at the ISA World Games. They were calling me on the mic and I’m just in the bathroom. It happened a lot.”

Last year ,doctors found precancerous cells in his colon and determined it needed to be removed. This meant that Mo would have a bag on the outside of his body to act as his colon.

He immediately began to question if he would be able to surf again. He scoured the internet for information in hopes there was someone else out there who was able to surf with an colostomy bag. He found a surfer in the UK who had undergone the same procedure.

“He was like ‘Don’t worry as long as you don’t lay down too long. It’s ok for paddling quick and catching the wave…. You’ll be fine. It’s ok for you to do it.’ He said for the first few months it was difficult for him but now he’s used to it, so this is what gave me the courage. I was like ‘Cool, if this guy can do it I can do it,’ so I went in for the surgery.”

Doctors removed the majority of his colon, leaving behind a small portion of it, which now protrudes outside of the stomach. The bag secures onto that protrusion. Everything that would be coming out of his rear end, now ends up in the bag.

When asked what would happen if the bag ripped?

“So when your body digests food, before it becomes poop your body produces some chemicals, so that is what would come out. But usually now before I surf or do any sports I will not eat for a while beforehand just in case this happens, that way nothing comes out.”

In fact, it came out recently while surfing, “When it happened, I wasn’t wearing anything to support it and from now on I just wear a wetsuit. The wetsuit presses it in and keeps it stable.”

He also popped it while skateboarding recently, “I was dropping into the halfpipe. I ate shit so many times. I slammed straight into the ramp and the bag popped.”

It’s possible for Mo to get a procedure so he doesn’t have to use the bag, but it would require two additional surgeries and he would go back to having to use the bathroom between at least seven times a day.

“So far I’m happy with my bag. It’s a little uncomfortable surfing but I spoke to a few shapers to see if I can have a small curve where the bag is, to have less impact on the board. So I’m working with a shaper in South Africa (DGS Surfboards) to create something. My only concern is paddling. Otherwise, I’m just gonna go big wave surfing and get towed in.”

Italian surf historian declares people surfing in China thousands of years before Polynesia: “There’s some who tread on drifting wood performing hundreds of water tricks, having fun, each displaying great mastery!”

Big Trouble etc.

Three years ago, the book Cocaine + Surfing: A Love Story (buy here) was released with its extremely controversial claim that surfing was likely born in beautiful Peru. Conventional wisdom had long been that our favorite dance grew in Polynesia and spread from there. Cocaine + Surfing posited since there were no native coca on any of the islands it is very unlikely that anyone would have had the desire to slide waves without the magic plant.


Italian surf historian has just made an even more extremely controversial claim. Surfing, he says, did not begin in Polynesia nor Peru but rather China.

Nicolla “Nik” Zanella stumbled on his discovery in 2006 while visiting a Buddhist temple in Kunming in the southern Yunnan province. There he saw a 19th century bas-relief depicting a group of arhats, or those who have reached Nirvana, out amongst the waves.

One, in particular, stood out.

“The guy was standing up, his pose was exactly what we teach – back foot flat, front foot at a 45-degree angle, looking 5m in front of the board. And his face – he looked stoked,” Zanella told the South China Morning Post.

It was so captivating that he climbed down 5000 years of Chinese literature, finding Song Dynasty poet Zhou Mi’s work on the way. Zanella translates, “Hundreds of brave watermen … with unfastened hair and tattoos, holding coloured flags, race to the water … they paddle towards the oncoming waves … then they leap up and perform a hundred manoeuvres without getting the tail of their flags even slightly wet. This is how they show off their skill. Hence the nobles reward them with silver prizes.”

Very WQS.

The poem went on, “They gather in a group of a hundred, holding coloured flags, and compete in treading waves. They head straight to the river mouth to welcome the tide. Moreover, there’s some who tread on drifting wood … performing hundreds of water tricks, having fun, each displaying great mastery.”


The brave watermen with unfastened hair and tattoos were not riding ocean waves, however. They were theoretically surfing the large tidal bore in Hangzhou later made famous by Jamie O’Brien.

Extraordinarily cool though begs the question.

Is surfing’s true love story with opium not cocaine?

Much to ponder.

San Diego senior women’s boogie board club a shining beacon of joy in sea of grouch: “I always feel better with my brain when I go Boogie Boarding!”

Priceless joy.

VALs, Wavestorms, overcrowding, one-day World Surf League finals, Erik Logan, harrumph. There is much to grouse about our current state of surfing and grouse I do, early and often, but today I stumbled upon a story that warmed my cold heart to its very core.

San Diego’s senior women’s boogie board club.

Ranging in age from late-40s to mid-90s, the old gals meet three times a week to slide and glide North County, most recently out at a reported 6 – 8 foot Fletcher Cove.

Charlotte Gumbrell, 95, told RISMedia, “I always feel better with my brain when I go Boogie Boarding. I’m sure it helps. Every year I say this is going to be my last year out there, but then I just keep going. If I can get out there, I’m always so happy I did.”

The women boogie together in a pack of 20, or so, directly in front of a lifeguard stand for safety and look out for each other, helping each other to their feet after a cruise etc.

“We call it turtling,” Solana Beach’s Ginny Van Meter said. “That’s the hardest part of it all. Your knees aren’t as good as they used to be, so standing back up takes a lot of work.”

Crista Stahl, 85, was worried about getting her boogie on in the time of Covid but her doctor assured her it was ok as long as they all stayed 6 feet apart in the lineup.

Patti Fitchen, 78, likes how boogie boarding keeps her in shape, saying, “It’s terrific for your thighs. You have to walk out against the surf in deep water and that’s no easy task. It’s exhilarating melding your body with the movement of the waves. That joy is priceless.”

Ain’t it just, though, and is your cold heart warm now too?


Buy: Mad Max’s iconic oceanfront hideout near Bells Beach for $11 million!

"The property offers the extremely rare combination of beautiful views, immediate access to the beach and total privacy."

A beachfront shack that featured as Mad Max’s hideout in the post-apocalyptic 1979 Australian New Wave film is on the market for eleven million Australian dollars.

The little wooden shack at 310 Great Ocean Road, Fairhaven, Victoria, is where Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky lives with his wife Jesse and kid Sprog before a moto-gang kills the wife and kid and Max becomes Mad, hence title of film and so on.

The little Mad Max shack in 1979.

The joint has been lightly renovated since the shooting of the film, the single storey circa 1960s construction turned into a five-bedroom, six-shitter beach chic masterpiece squatting on over 30,000 square feet of sand dune surrounded by unoccupied crown land on both sides.

A light reno, new paint etc.
A masterpiece of beach chic.

As the real estate agent explains,

The property offers the extremely rare combination of beautiful views, immediate access to the beach and total privacy.

Generous open plan living with floor to ceiling glazing and outdoor entertaining provides the ultimate theatre to experience the unfolding drama of nature and all her seasons. Understated opulence imbues the entire home with a soothing quality and a subtle timeless sophistication. This quality is especially evident in the master suite with its ocean outlook, private balcony, dressing room and en-suite. Each of the three additional bedrooms has an en-suite, while a four-bed bunk room utilises a fifth bathroom. There are six bathrooms and a powder room in total.

There’s enough parking for a ’74 Ford Falcon XB GT “Pursuit Special”, a ’72 HQ Monaro coupe, a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air Sedan and a Mazda Bongo.

Mel Gibson was twenty-three and cute as a button when he shot the film but is a now a grinchy ol sixty five-year old.

Sign into YouTube for this lil treat.