If there was a higher echelon of ‘cool girl’, I’m pretty sure surf, kitesurf, wakeboard and skater girls are in it. They’re strong, they’re determined, they’re ambitious and the fact that they can do gymnastics with a board on their feet while competing with the elements means they have a sort of swagger in their style that you can’t deny. 

Female empowerment in recent years really is hitting the jackpot and these women in extreme sport are finally making some traction. Our beloved social media plays a huge roll in this rise; much like changes the ‘unsigned’ music industry has seen, ‘unsponsored’ female athletes can self-publicise. Once you get the right exposure combined with the right skill, you’re on your way. 

More footage, more follows, and more likes leads to more exposure, right? Brands have certainly cottoned on to this and if you lift the lid into the dark undertone of social media you wouldn’t be surprised to see the incredible amount of deals, associations, backlash and promises made by a true ‘influencer’ – whether they want to be one or not – if you have the following and you’re in the lime light, you’ve got responsibilities. Responsibilities mostly dictated by your long awaited and newly found sponsors. 

Here’s the catch. Sex sells. And extreme sports girls? With all that swag? Well they can be pretty darn sexy.

What we find so often is that some of the most successful females in extreme sports are asked to work on their back-arching photoshoots from the waist down. Of course, that is sometimes a beautiful addition, managed well and found in male athletes alike (more torso than bottom of course) – but what really gets us down is the declining focus on the skill that got them to the top. The training they did to mega-loop, the near broken ankles to rail grind, the ambition and focus that brought them this super model body? It doesn’t appear in their Instagram feed. 

After a while at the top, sometimes we know more about the shape of these chickas’ peachy peach than we do their world class triple handle pass that most people couldn’t even dream about.

Writing about big (we mean BIG) wave rider Keala Kennedy and her WSL (World Surfing League) world title, the New York Times writes:

“ ‘You don’t have to have sex with me to keep your job, but you have to make me want to have sex with you,’ ” she says, recalling the message [Keala] received as a sponsored female surfer, “ ‘and it’s fun seeing you in a bikini, but it’s not fun seeing you charge giant waves.’ ”

Unfortunately, surfing is probably the most progressive. It’s painful to share news of the wakeboarding scene. Did you know, in 2018, the well-known, well-loved and arguably the most popular wake magazine Alliance Wakeboarder dropped female Rider of the Year for Rear of the Year (ok, it’s Wake Butt of the Year but hey, that doesn’t flow so well)  – this turned into an industry wide murky water dispute but the global messaging is there. Don’t get our sorry souls started on equal prize money.

But hey – why not! Alana Blanchard – the queen of surfing – has risen to the top and then some as a sex symbol in the pro surfing world. She hasn’t done it overnight and she hasn’t done it by accident, she is an incredible entrepreneur. From the outside looking in, she has used her image and ridden the social media game faultlessly to reach the top of the league, now reaping the rewards to live a very comfortable life. 

For us over at She Flies, however, there is one big thing missing. Inspiration.

Her success is inspirational but for the sport itself, what about us average Joe’s who squeeze in their passion around their day job? Where every minute on the water, on the board, at the cable is a precious minute. Should we try and progress today, try a new trick today? Which trick? Am I ready? Will it ruin my session if I hurt myself? Maybe I should just enjoy the ride and take it easy? These are the questions you might ask yourself on the journey to your chosen sport. 

We need our girls at the top to show us how, show us why and give us examples of tricks we can do, we can try, as a woman. Without that spine-tingling-heart-pumping inspiration, it is very easy to just take it slow, enjoy the ride.

Some Phan Rang kitesurfing action during the 2016 KTA X-Champs at Ninh Chu Bay, Vietnam
Image courtesy of KTA Media – Alexandru Baranescu Photography

Check out your sport’s best edits; the cinematography, music and production are combined to bring those tingly spines and tears of love for your sport. But they’re all for the boys. So often, they showcase strong men riding, competing, experimenting – and girls? Well, they’re there and they’re looking good, of course – but alas, the don’t throw any sexy mega loops.

Scale that up to the pros and we ain’t gonna get more lady riders if the only thing we see is a very unfeminine muscle man whizzing through the sky.

If you look hard, you can find it. Duotones Sum of 5, Nicola Butlers ‘For The Girls’ and the recent Francesca Bagnoli in Duotones ‘A la Playa’. If you’re a girl (or guy) don’t tell us these edits don’t get your eyes focused in on every single detail of the riding, your head bouncing to the accompanying music and your heart pounding as you think maybe, just maybe, you could see yourself, on your board, trying a similar thing.

We all need inspiration to succeed and we all know we’re different (Mars, Venus, etc): nature, nurture – you choose, but we sure as hell are different. As a kiteboarding instructor, the disparities between men and woman is phenomenal. Give a guy a lesson and two minutes in he’s chomping at the bit to grab that kite and throw himself over the sandbank. Girls on the other hand, another story – she wants to listen, watch, double check and only take that kite when she knows it’s safe. And hell, woman are emotional, we overthink, we need detail, maybe we want a little more encouragement, support. 

Why do we hide that? It is because of all of those details – that practise, that fear, that finesse, that emotion – that we come out the other side as the most athletic, smooth, shapely, elegant and beautiful riders. We don’t smash and crash, we glide with style.

woman skateboarding down asphalt road with washed out rocky outcroppings in the background

She Flies is all about recognising those characteristics and that need. We are a global community and extreme sports events provider that will make starting and progressing in extreme sports easier for woman and riddle them with inspiration. We are bringing our community together to truly inspire the future of females in extreme sports. We are creating a different mindset around the phenomenon that we as woman need to use our sex appeal to be more visible, more inspirational. Our style, finesse, obsession with the detail, well it is different to the lads – and that is something we will focus on, develop and not ignore. If we believe so, our surroundings will act the same. 

Yes, it’s 2019, yes female futures are on the rise but the extreme sports world has a long way to go and unless we keep this momentum up, it will follow its past success and fizzle into history ready for another 20 yearly cycle uprising.

Keep your ear to the ground for She Flies events, membership and promotional freebies we’ll be sharing on our Instagram and Facebook. Asia, South America, Australia, Europe and some bits and pieces in between. It’s going to be a jam-packed year of (emotional, over thinking, detailed, ambitious) girl power and we couldn’t be more excited for this beautiful adventure.

Categories: Move

Josie West

Having left the corporate life in London, Josie is now following her passion for kitesurfing through travel whilst teaching, encouraging and empowering woman in extreme sports through the organisation She Flies.

2 Comments

Kathi Gray · June 26, 2019 at 1:29 AM

Great article Josie! Proud to be an emotional, over thinking, detailed, ambitious woman rider!

    Josie West · July 13, 2019 at 1:12 PM

    Thanks Kathi – and absolutely – me too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shares