Women only surfboards
Men, these surfboards are not for you.

Women-only surfboards hottest new growth category as girls flock to waves!

“What makes a women’s surfboard?” It’s pink, probably.

A week or so ago, before the rain and the floods, I drove the 405 to San Clemente to learn about the newly launched XO Coco surfboard line. I listened to Hole on repeat, because Siri refused to change the music.

Obviously, Siri hates me.

Driving the 405 with Courtney Love screaming at me did not spark joy. I want to be the girl with the most cake.

The surfboards. You want to know about the surfboards. A collaboration between Matt Parker of Album and Hawaiian ripper Coco Ho, XO Coco is designed specifically women. Six boards comprise the line, and they range from a fish called the Tryst to the Serendipity, a singlefin longboard. Currently, they’re available in stock sizes (no customs, for now).

When I messaged a few of my friends about this story, each one asked me the same question.

“What makes a women’s surfboard?”

It’s pink, probably. While a girl can certainly buy a pink surfboard from XO Coco, there’s more to the story than cute colors.

XO Coco originated a few years ago when Coco appeared in Stab’s E.A.S.T. video series. At the time, I had a text exchange with Matt, where I learned that he had spent considerable time thinking about how to make surfboards work better for women. Intrigued, I stuffed this information in my brain for future use. There it sat, until I heard about XO Coco.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Coco Ho (@xococoho)

How I learned to hate teal

Before I go any further, I should tell you that I’m a veteran of the wars over women’s product in the outdoor industry. Let’s just say, it hasn’t always been pretty.

I’ve seen screaming matches over the presence — or absence! — of pink in a product line. I’ve acquired a deep hatred for teal, though to be fair, teal has never done anything to deserve it. I have also gained a deep sympathy for anyone trying to design product for women. It turns out that we are very hard to please.

In my experience, women’s product lines go off the rails in a few ways.

One is the obvious one: The product is a poorly designed, shrunken version of a men’s product that’s painted pink. Well, if it’s pink, it must be for women! A bunch of girls? Nah, they won’t actually know if the product is actually good.

Spoiler! We know. We absolutely know.

Fortunately these days, it’s rare to see a brand fall into this very obvious trap.

More often with the best of intentions, women’s product designers define their audience too narrowly. They emphasize specially designed features for small, light humans, never mind the reality that women come in a wide range of sizes. Women aren’t necessarily small men.

There’s also a tendency to be prescriptive and argue that women can’t possibly do anynthing without a woman’s product. If we don’t like the specific teal or pink thing on offer, well, we’re definitely doing it wrong. In fact, it’s more likely that the product is poorly designed or doesn’t serve the audience it aims to reach.

All of which is to say, I’ve seen plenty of misfires, which led me to approach this notion of a women’s surfboard gingerly and with a certain degree of skepticism.

In my own life, I have ridden both stock and custom boards, and my current everyday shortboard is a stock board from CI. I’m 5’9”, so I don’t fit the assumption that women are small. Oops. My bad. In fact, I’m unnervingly close to a medium-sized man when it comes to surfboards and outdoor gear. Again, my bad.

Matt Parker is staring at your feet.

When I sit down to talk to Matt in his office at Album, it’s clear that he’s aware of many of these pitfalls.

“Not every woman is 5’2”,” he said. “There’s variety. It’s not like, every women’s surfboard is going to be some shrunk-down, tiny little thing.”

His interest in designing boards for women emerged from watching contest surfing and seeing girls surf in the lineup.

“I would be watching women surf, and the whole frame of reference is from a guy’s perspective,” he said. “So, they’re riding guys’ boards, and there’s times when it just looks off. It’s like, there’s something not right here.”

One element that immediately stood out to Matt is foot size. He wears a size 12 or 13 men’s shoe, and the average women’s size is closer to a men’s four or six. Matt believes that this difference in foot-size changes most women’s leverage on a surfboard in significant ways.

“Give Ethan Ewing a board that’s 23 1/2 inches wide, and see if he can do the same turn,” asserts Matt. When he watches women surf, he feels like their boards are working against them.

It would be nice if simply cutting a board with a narrower outline would solve all our problems. I have tried this tactic, in fact. I have a beautiful custom roundpin thruster, with lovely thin rails, and a narrow outline. It works amazing in good waves and goes rail-to-rail with glorious ease, but it sinks like a rock on an average day. I live in California. There just aren’t that many good days.

As he watched women surf, Matt kept turning over the various design elements in his mind.

“I felt like there was such a missing link in this,” he said. “I’ve thought about it forever.”

Matt imagined that a narrower outline would be more responsive under smaller feet. But that didn’t complete the puzzle. He also pictured shifting the volume so the board would continue to paddle easily and hold speed through turns.

With plenty of work to do at Album, Matt never had time to experiment. It’s a pattern that has repeated across the industry. With the razor thin margins in surfboard manufacturing, there’s little space to make a board that might sit sad and unsold on the racks. Many shapers work from their own experiences, which means shaping boards for people who look like them and surf like them. Which is to say, like men.

“If you walk into any surfboard factory, it’s a lot of the same characters, a lot of the same mindset,” Matt said. “There’s all these amazing craftspeople who know how to make amazing boards, but we can’t help but view things through our perspective.”

Coco Ho rides a twinfin — and likes it

When Coco showed up to film for E.A.S.T., she had never ridden a twinfin. She’d spent 11 years on the CT and had always ridden her contest boards.

“There’s just no time in our schedule to play around,” she told me over the phone. “It’s so full-on.” With good waves readily available to her at home in Hawai’i, Coco had less reason to experiment with small wave boards than Californians do. (Hi, it’s me, I’m the Californian.)

After years ripping on a thruster, Coco didn’t anticipate that she’d thrive on a twinfin. So, it came as a surprise to her that she liked the 5’2” twinfin that Matt made for E.A.S.T. “The drive, the speed, and the feeling of freedom through the turns” are what stood out to her. “I just expected to slide around on it, and that wasn’t the case at all.”

After Coco picked his board as her favorite out of the E.A.S.T. collection, Matt began sending her prototypes.

For years, girls in the lineup had asked Coco where to buy boards. Sometimes, she could tell them to pick up one of her used boards from Lost, her board sponsor at the time.

“I always felt bad if the person asking me wasn’t near my size,” she said. “I didn’t know where to send them.”

She also understood that many women didn’t feel confident ordering customs. “It’s not like, that inviting of a world. It’s not easy.”

So, the idea of making boards more readily available to women appealed to her.

As she worked with Matt on designs, Coco also saw the potential in starting a brand of her own. “The boys are doing it with Former and Florence Marine,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of space for all the really successful girls of my generation to do this.”

Coco mentioned that Steph has a board project on the way, too.

With Coco out testing prototypes and Matt in the shaping bay, they worked together to refine the design elements that the boards in the XO Coco collection share. The XO Coco boards each have finely tuned rails and narrow outlines. Matt played with foiling and foam placement, too, to ensure there’s enough volume and he tinkered with fin templates and positioning.

“That’s a huge part of the design, having that foam in the middle and the fuller deck,” said Coco. “That’s for speed and paddling. The foiled rails and narrower decks is for being able to release and be sharp on turns. And, there’s some magic with fin placement — but that’s our special sauce.”

For the joy of surfing

Of course, XO Coco is not the only surfboard option for women. Custom shapers such as Ashley Lloyd and Rachel Lord have gained a loyal following for their longboards. Christine Brailsford Caro shapes custom midlength and fish designs at Furrow and counts numerous women among her customers, too.

In Australia, Jaleesa Vincent is working with an anonymous shaper on a board brand, while Salt Gypsy has a collection made by GSI.

It’s also true that Matt’s design mix is not the only way to make a board that works well for a woman surfer. One of my favorite boards, for example, has a fairly wide outline. Initially, I wasn’t at all sure it would go well, but it turned out that the interaction between the rails and bottom contours made the board responsive and quick. There’s always going to be more than one way to make a magic board.

But it’s fair to say, that XO Coco is the first brand with a range of stock boards designed for women. They’re accessible and ready to ride. A girl can walk into the shop in San Clemente, plunk down her cash, and walk out with a new board. And I think that’s pretty great.

The line includes a fish, a performance twinfin, a thruster, a midlength twin, a channel-bottom singlefin, and a longboard, so there’s options to suit many surfers’ styles. The size range should also fit a good proportion of women in the lineup. Looking at the dims, I could likely find a board to ride in each design except the Aurora thruster, which tops out at 5’8″ x 17.75″ x 2.25” (24.6 liters).

While the boards at XO Coco may not work for everyone, I like the invitation to experiment they offer.

I hope that this project — and hopefully there will be others like it — help women become more saavy about their boards. One custom shaper I talked to, for example, said the main request from women customers is that they want to be able to carry the board under their arm.

I’d like to see more women know how to find boards that will feel good on the wave, not just walking down the beach. I’d love to imagine more women finding a magic board, whether its a stock board from XO Coco or another brand or it comes from the hands of a custom shaper. Surfing should be fun. I’m pretty sure that’s why we do it.

Bringing that fun to more women is a big part of what Coco hopes her brand will achieve.

“I think the most rewarding part is getting to see my friends ride the boards and be stoked and have their eyes kind of light up,” she said. “Being able to give, instead of take is really nice. And I just want to spread the love and spread the joy of surfing.”

I definitely can’t argue with that.


Kelly Slater impossible tube.
Kelly Slater falls off, almost, climbs back into the cupola and exits to acclaim.

Kelly Slater stuns world with impossible tube ride two days after 52nd birthday!

"You will never see another surfer at that age, doing what Kelly Slater does, nobody, ever." 

It is a reflection of the absurdity of time passed and Kelly Slater’s longevity when you consider that he retired from the tour in 1998 as the most successful male pro surfer of all time. 

And, even if he’d never surfed another heat, if the late, great, insane Andy Irons hadn’t burned through town forcing him back into orbit, his six world titles, including those five in a row from 1994 through 1998, would still have Kelly Slater as the best ever. 

Of course, the man has flaws. Who don’t?

The blood feuds, for one. Baits set, bait gobbled: those simmering back-and-forths with flat-earthers, his ancient feud with Adriano de Souza, fighting an historically inaccurate troll by referencing his Chinese girlfriend.

As the surf historian Matt Warsaw has said,

“Kelly Slater’s life as a surfer of incomprehensible talent, in and out of the contest arena, at this point seems completely divorced from his life as a surfing entrepreneur. I can’t square the two.”

And,

“Kelly Slater in middle-age is anti-factual, irresponsible, and flagrantly narcissistic.”

Again, who isn’t?

All of that doesn’t matter to a man who throbs to his own pulse and gallops to victory again and again.

Two days after his fifty-second birthday, the still active professional surfer was filmed making an impossible barrel on his new surfboard design the S Boss, a surfboard designed to be a a “true universal surfboard built to unlock progression across all conditions and skill levels.”

In the clip, Kelly Slater appears to fall off into the barrel but scrambles up the ladder and climbs inside the cupola.

His exit is greeted with a howl of  “Oh my god!”

Comments, naturally, praise Kelly Slater as the best ever.

Common refrains,

“You will never see another surfer at that age, doing what he does, nobody, ever.”

“Is anyone really surprised anymore😂 I mean, c’mon, it’s Kelly Slater he’s a freak of nature, defies time. I think he might be Jesus.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Slater Designs (@slaterdesigns)

.

 

 


"We believe in nothing."
"We believe in nothing."

Surf City, USA Huntington Beach formalizes new identity as culture war capital!

"It's nihilism."

The World Surf League issued an email late last night relating to the upcoming Hurley Pro Sunset Beach, reminding “petty, whiny, constantly complaining, cry baby” surf fans that “patience is a virtue.” Yes, the window on the second 2024 championship tour event of the season is open, but there have been no waves ridden, no scores locked. The “global home of surfing” has been decidedly snakebit, when in comes to conditions, during the past year, extending into this one. Some blame former CEO Erik Logan’s famed poo-poo touch. Others, an unfortunate luck of the draw.

Whoever, or whatever, is at fault, at least we have Huntington Beach.

Surf City, USA has long been cherished, amongst the aforementioned surf fans, for its riots and crumbly hippity hoppity waves though only really enjoyed in the summertime. Now, as the Orange County gem is providing year ’round fun as a brave “culture war capital.”

Reuters, helping cement the reputation, declares:

Huntington Beach, a city of about 194,000, has become a microcosm of a polarized America in the Trump era. Norms of comity have given way to a zero-sum game where total conquest is sought because the opposing party’s values are seen as un-American.

“It’s a blood sport to be involved in Huntington Beach,” said Tony Strickland, part of the conservative council majority. “So many people are active. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”

The new council majority in Huntington Beach voted to remove books deemed as having sexual content from the teen section of the library, restricted who could give the opening prayer before city council meetings, and stripped the three liberals of assignments on boards and commissions. Last week it took on the border dispute in far away Texas.

On the left side, Protect Huntington Beach is seeking to take down their sworn political enemies.

“We know that other cities and counties are watching us,” Cathey Ryder, one of the founders of Protect Huntington Beach, told the news service. Dan Kalmick, one of the three liberals on the council, labeled the majority’s actions “nihilism.”

“It just seems to be spite and trying to own the libs,” he said. “Taking this level of national politics down to the local level breaks local government, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Elections are less than one month away, Surf City’s fate decided by the people.

Do you have a horse in the race?


Chas Smith defends online trolls whose cruel words toppled world surfing champ Filipe Toledo

"Never before in the history of professional surfing… not once… has power rested so squarely with the people."

Following surf guru Sam George’s savage attack on the online commentariat this morning, Chas Smith has mounted a robust defence of the below-the-line artist. 

Speaking from his Tuscan-inspired villa, a pink-washed home characterised by its romantic beauty and long-lasting craftsmanship in north San Diego county Chas announced,

“I will say this, frankly and forcefully, never before in the history of professional surfing, no not once, has power rested so squarely with the people. Popular uprisings have now deposed World Surf League champions and World Surf League heads alike.

“Uprisings, coming up from the commentariat, bubbling… broiling… exploding onto the surf scene and bringing real change.”

Chas Smith added,

“The people have arrived. The World Surf League’s gilded VIP zones are meaningless. Who would want to go shoulder rub the spoiled sons and daughters of shallow surf privilege… when he or she could be in a comment section, setting the very surf world on fire.”

Sam George had earlier written,

“Take a quick scroll though the typical comment section on popular surfing sites (with the exception of the one you’re currently visiting, occasionally shamed for its generally positive tone) and let’s review what the Poster Posse is currently bitching about. Professional competitive surfing really takes a beating, the WSL World Championship Tour, especially, held accountable for crimes ranging from holding contests at shitty surf spots like Pipeline, Sunset Beach, Supertubes, Bells Beach, Margaret River, Teahupo’o, Punta Roca, Saquarema, Cloudbreak and Lower Trestles (all premier breaks that the average poster would have no chance of ever riding even a medium set wave), to blatant criteria inconsistencies, Filipe Toledo’s distain for big, dangerous waves, the patently unfair mid-season cut, Joe Turpel (on a purely existential level) and calling off the Pipe Masters because the waves were deemed too big and dangerous for Toledo’s fellow competitors, most of whom indicated that given the choice they’d rather not paddle out.”


Jodie Cooper, Sunset Beach, Hawaii by Tom Servais
Icon portrait of Jodie Cooper at Sunset Beach, Hawaii, by Tom Servais

Dirty Water: Jodie Cooper and her dreams of Biblical revenge after being attacked by a mat-rider in surf

“I was going to suck it up. I was thinking, ‘Don’t worry, mate, I’ll wait and bide my time…an eye for an eye.”

This interview with Jodie Cooper was the last podcast the surf writer and commentator Ben Mondy recorded for us and took place around eighteen months ago.

BeachGrit employed the Mondy, who lives in England, to make a few Dirty Water podcasts while Charlie and I busied ourselves with leisure.

Mondy and I had worked together at a Sydney publishing house in the real early two thousands, he Tracks, me Waves. And while my surfer connections withered to nothing after Andy died and Bruce fled the scene, Mondy’s had flourished as he pivoted hard into surf commentary.

It never ran ‘cause I asked Mondy to call back Jodie Cooper and lean a little more into her famous, and successful, assault case against surf mat aficionado Mark Thomson.

In the interview, Joe Cooper touched on the assault and her reasons for pressing charges.

“I wasn’t his first victim. Hopefully, I was his last. He picked the wrong person as you know. He picks on women, he picks on young kids, that’s the type of species that guy is and there’s a lot of them out there still.”

Initially, Jodie was gonna avoid any police action and wait for her moment to strike back.

“I was going to suck it up. It was traumatic for sure. I didn’t need the attention. I didn’t want the attention and I knew it was going to draw a lot of attention. I was thinking, ‘Don’t worry, mate, I’ll wait and bide my time…an eye for an eye.”

But,

“I got so much feedback, people contacted me who he had attacked pleading with me to do something. That’s why I decided to press charges.”

It’s a good interview, but I wanted more! The revenge fantasy! What hell would’ve struck her assailant?

Anyway, the files just appeared on my desktop, had a re-listen, though it’s a story worth re-telling.

There isn’t much about Jodie Cooper that I don’t love,” Matt Warshaw told me back in 2020. “Jodie seems indomitable in a way, unbreakable, but there’s something kind of hard-luck about her too. I don’t quite know why. Maybe I’m just still pissed on her behalf because that geezer Thompson who assaulted her basically walked, which seemed like a pretty grievous miscarriage of justice.