Maya rules the big waves!

British academic claims women’s surfing “exists as a category because the dominance of men athletes was threatened by women competing”!

“Women are crushing big-wave surfing… ”

A British academic has lit up Twitter with her posit that men and women are separated in sport only because men are terrified they gonna get beaten by the gals. 

Posted a few days ago, Dr Sheree Bekker’s twenty-part Twitter thread has snowballed 2130 comments, 18.1k retweets and 43.3k likes, ok by Instagram metrics, phenomenal on Twitter. 

Click here to read the whole thing, but here are the main points, edited et.

On the history of (the segregation of) women’s sport

I have been hearing more and more frequently the narrative that women’s sport apparently exists as a ‘protected category’ so that women can win (because on this account no woman will ever win again without this protected category).


a) is not the reason why women’s sport exists as a category, and

b) it is not true that no woman will ever win again.

This narrative is also profoundly paternalistic and keeps women small.

I wanted to unpack this a little:

A. It is important to know that women’s sport exists as a category because the dominance of men was threatened by women competing.

We see this over and over again in the history of sport:

Women’s inclusion was on the terms of those in power. They didn’t want women ‘taking opportunities’ away from men so they segregated women.

It was never about a benevolent (still sexist) aim of supposedly ‘giving women a chance to win’.

It was about control.

And the narrative (B) about women being inherently physically inferior to men?

Concocted as a reason to segregate us without threatening masculinity.

There are once again greater fears here that women may start to challenge men’s dominance more broadly.

Indeed we are already starting to see this:

Exhibit B2: women are crushing big wave surfing (in 2020 Maya Gabeira surfed the biggest wave of the year in a record-breaking feat, Maggie Mertens explains here why you wouldn’t have heard about her feat).

Sport isn’t inherently gendered. We manufacture strict binary gendered differences, and then we naturalise them. Understanding and interrogating this helps us to understand the panic and fearmongering around women’s sport right now, and where we might go next.

I’m on the side of Bekker, as you might imagine.

Two months ago, I gave hell to the WSL when it refused to throw the best girl surfers in the world at epic Pipe. 

Proof, I  believed, that the chauvinism so rightly hit with the spotlight in Girls Can’t Surf hasn’t gone anywhere; that when the waves are perfect, the girls are given the revoltingly slimy end of the stick, so to speak. 

“It was a fucking joke and a disgrace to all equality in sports pushes ever,” one top female pro told me.

The opposing argument is that female dominance over men is a fantasy, proponents pointing to the sudden rise of Lia Thomas in women’s college swimming and to the time a has-been German tennis pro, rated 203, smashed hell out of teen superstars Serena and Venus Williams, back to back. 

Where do you stand? 

Revered surf blog publicly shames surfer for losing board in lineup nearly decapitating hot up-and-comer; furiously backpedals after realizing who surfer is: “Happens to the best of us!”

Put down your pitchforks!

Public shamings are, now, an accepted norm but do you recall a day when small mistakes weren’t paraded down Main Street?


Well, revered surf website Stab, hours ago, conducted a civic lynching by posting a video of hot up-and-coming surfer Cruz Dinofa nearly becoming decapitated by a stray board there on Oahu’s North Shore.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Stab Magazine (@stab)

The caption read, “Not the haircut @cruzdinofa was after. Particularly after nailing this inside nug. Hold onto your boards folks, this could have been really ugly.”

Humiliation poured in from many corners with opinions ranging from angry to rage-filled.

“The surfer who lost the board should be banned for life!”

“The surfer who lost the board is a kook!” etc.

Trouble is, the “surfer who lost the board” was none other than other up-and-comer Tosh Tudor.

The son of longboard champion Joel, and longtime Stab favorite, braved the mob and entered the chat, writing,

“That’s my board that hit @cruzdinofa. Had caught the wave before and my board slipped through my hands while duck diving the wave. Not trying to get everyone’s pity incredibly bummed that this happened and very glad nothing worse came of it. Heal up quick @cruzdinofa.”

Immediately realizing that it had communally executed a friendly, Stab immediately backpedaled, hard, and replied, “Respect for owning this. Happens to the best of us.”

Confused messaging, certainly.

Are we, as a furious horde, supposed to brutalize board losers or give them grace?

More questions than answers.

Senior Vice Presidents of Tours and Heads of Competitions, co-Waterpersons of the Year bullish as exhaustive new study declares the “global surfing market” will explode to $3.1 billion by 2026!

Happy days are here again.

The fact that our World Surf League has stumbled, bumbled, fumbled onto hard times is no secret. Empty “stay tuned” screens fill the broadcast, its “studios” shuttered, tens of employees unceremoniously fired, sent out to Santa Monica’s streets to join other likeminded homeless.

Dark days.

But maybe, just maybe, there some light at the end of that tunnel? A new, exhaustive study that can be purchased here is declaring the “global surfing market” will explode to a mind-boggling $3.1 billion by the year 2026.

Per the abstract:

Surfing is a surface water sport wherein the participant moves along the face of a breaking ocean wave, also known as the `surf`, with the use of `board` as primary equipment. The primary factor driving growth is the push by surfing equipment makers, marketers and associations to make surfing much more approachable than it was in past years, as seen through the roll out of public surfing facilities and artificial reefs. Increased accessibility and affordability has drawn significant number of surfing participants and attracted wider demographic clusters in the recent years. The sport of surfing has also emerged a fashion and lifestyle trend. The growing focus on wellness and fitness is also leading to increased interest in surfing, as spas and wellness centers promote the sport as a fitness ritual. Surf tourism has contributed significantly to the demand for surfing equipment and apparel over the years. Surfing vacations hold tremendous potential and are likely to be a vital component of the global travel industry in the post COVID-19 period. The inclusion of surfing as a sporting event in the Olympics also has the potential to spur interest in the activity.

Some of this has to trickle up into co-Waterperson of the Year Dirk Ziff’s beleaguered pockets no? SVP of Tours and Head of Competition Jessi Miley-Dyer counting how many more stops at Trestles she can add, per year, with the windfall yes?

Happy days are here again.

Alabama first state in nation to pass “wake surfing” ban causing much fear, consternation, panic to spread through novelty wave community!

Cancel culture.

Any one, here, who has ever been wake surfing knows both the simple joy and light frustration it brings. It is fun, or fun enough, to pump “down the line” of a knee to waist high “wave” perpetually breaking. It is semi-annoying to have a boat rumbling perpetually out front. But, on a warm lake day it is the third best “activity” after drinking Coors Light and e-foiling, friends hooting and laughing, Morgan Wallen blasting out Rockford Fosgate speakers.

Well, a new law just passed unanimously in Alabama will make whole business illegal causing much fear, consternation, panic to spread through the novelty wave community.

Senate Bill 281 was sponsored by State Sens. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) and carried in the House by Rep. Ginny Shaver (R-Leesburg).

“There’s been a lot of public outcry about the issues concerning wake boats and wake surfers due to the damage that the wakes cause to lake property, just the nuisance they cause by people who are not considerate of others,” Ms. Shaver told local news adding, “About a year or so ago there was a public meeting and over 200 people from that area attended with concerns about these issues, so it’s not just a one-person problem.”

While Alabama’s wake surfers will now have to cross state lines in order to get their fix, tanker wake surfers, flowriders and those who poach the occasional hurricane swells in Mobile huddle in basements wondering if they might be next.

First they came for motor-created swell riders and I said nothing because I did not ride motor-created swell etc.

Scary times.

Dane Reynolds, far right during reboot of Drive-Thru. | Photo: @benjiweatherley

Go-for-broke former world number #4 surfer reveals lifelong battle with anxiety; thought he was “dying” during heat with Gabriel Medina, “I couldn’t go outside… I locked myself into the house for months… there was no ending in sight!”

“The biggest problem was it kept happening. My wife had to travel with me for years.”

A terrific new entrant into the surf podcast arena is Soundings, hosted by Jamie Brisick, the thirty-year veteran surf journalist from Malibu, California. 

Brisick is the author, among many other titles, of the surf hunk to showgirl book, Becoming Westerly, which tells the story of Peter Drouyn’s overnight gender switcharoo. 

Part thriller, part melodrama, all page-turner. To be and not to be is the result.

Lately, Brisick has become the voice of the Surfer’s Journal podcast, Soundings. His silky baritone vibrates like muted thunder, the sound coming from so deep in his throat its hard not be shivered with excitement. 

Episode four is with Dane Reynolds, the thirty-six-year-old father of three, filmmaker, vlogger and former world number four surfer from Bakersfield in California.

Many topics are covered. Reynolds talks slowly, as if stiffed on a one-hundred dollar bag of coke. Brisick deftly leads the conversation. 

The interview gets good when Reynolds dips into the anxiety he felt when he was on the tour in his mid-twenties, as well as his fear of winning a surf event.

“Twenty-six is a weird transitional part of your life,” Reynolds says. “That year was learning to be an adult and being a professional surfer doesn’t teach you to be an adult. I was putting too much pressure on myself to do the best surfing I’ve ever done and, basically, wearing myself thin and it unknowingly spilled over during a heat with Gabriel Medina… during the heat I was in a complete panic…as anyone who has had a panic attack knows, I thought I was dying. When I got out I ran to the car, called my girlfriend, she was at a wedding, and said I think I’m dying. I was driving to the hospital and she talked me out of it. She’d had experiences like that before, and then I just passed out.”

Reynolds tells Briz, “The biggest problem was it kept happening. I was in Mexico and it happened again. I was going into a grocery store in town and it happened again. Suddenly, I couldn’t go outside. Courtney (Reynolds’ wife) couldn’t have people over. I locked myself into the house for months. There was no ending for months. I went to lots of therapy, had medication but, even then, my wife had to travel with me for years.”

Brisick says to Reynolds he imagined a day when Reynolds won a contest ‘cause he figured it would have a transformative effect, maybe give him the drive to chase title. 

“I don’t think that was ever in the cards,” says Reynolds, “mostly because I had a weird thing. I was scared of winning a contest. I didn’t want to know how it felt. I didn’t want to get carried up the beach. I wanted to get there, but then I’d blow it and get second. Not on purpose. It was a weird mental block.” 

Essential listening.