Sister Act

Sexist, misogynistic, insensitive, presumptuous, ill-informed, opinionated, old fashioned, elitist. And they're just the good bits.

Sam Lamiroy, who we can confirm is none of these, just charming, recently spent a wonderful week in the Algarve, with the gang from the Portugal Surf Experience, coaching six amazing girls.

What was really interesting was the eclectic, and electric, mix of ages, surfing experience and socio cultural backgrounds. He posed three questions to each of the girls as a basic guide and let the girls speak for themselves.

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Name: Emma L
Age: 31
Local surf spot: Newgale and Whitesands
iAM Bands Level: Blue

1) What does surfing mean to you?
Hmm, what does surfing mean to me? That’s the ultimate question. It’s like asking why do you love that person, like chocolate or hate brussels sprouts. I just love it, it’s a real passion, an escape, a release. I always feel better after a surf, even if it’s not been a particularly good one.

I guess the number one reason is I love the sea, the sound, the feel, the power and of course it keeps me fit. I usually give myself the option, either go for a run or have a surf. I choose surfing every time.

I’ll happily go for a surf alone but l love surfing with a group of friends. When I’m out surfing I have to rely solely on myself and my own ability; it’s a quest for that perfect wave.

2) What is good/bad/annoying/interesting/funny about being a girl surfer?
This week’s boot camp has been the first time I’ve surfed with so many girls. when we were out in the water it felt as though we were a pack and dominated the spot…”Hey, we’re here, don’t walk all over us!” Surfing the waves and cheering each other on, we were very vocal and it was amazing to have that, which was particularly helpful when it got busy and the guys felt as if they could walk all over us, although some seemed happy to have us in the water, even giving us waves. As long as one of us were getting one up on the guys, then that’s fine by me. That’s also why it’s been amazing watching Georgie surf.

I am concerned of how women are portrayed in surfing. It’s opening a can of worms as there are so many different opinions but I would like to see more of them actually surfing and less of their butts. The majority of videos are only partially of them surfing waves. The other thing is the lack of choice of wetsuits…I mean why are there more top of the range wetsuits available to men than women?

3) How did you find the week: the coaching, the social side, the environment, what were the highlights and was it productive?
This week has surpassed all my expectations and there have been so many highlights. I gained valuable knowledge and learned new techniques; I have so much to take away with me and work on. It’s funny, you have this idea of how you surf, maybe you see someone in the water and think: ‘yeah I surf like that’ but the video analysis was really helpful and showed me how I surf. Sam’s knowledge and ability to pick up on things amazed me. I’ve never had any coaching and had picked up some bad habits.

I’m originally from a small town in Lancashire though I’ve always wanted to be near the sea and learn how to surf. So I applied for jobs and ended up in Pembrokeshire working as an outdoor instructor, even though I’d only tried surfing a handful of times. Now I teach surfing and I always say to those who I teach, whether you’re able to stand up, getting wiped out or surfing a wave in on your belly, it’s going to be fun. Just get in there and give it a go.

Surfing is one of the hardest and slowest progressive sports I’ve tried. If you mess up, you can’t go and do the same exact thing again because no two waves are the same. And even as I’m sat here writing this on my flight back, after an epic, warm wave surfing week in Portugal, I know tomorrow (even though the weather will be horrible) I’ll be back in the sea surfing. I could never be landlocked again.

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Name: Milla M
Age: 15
Local surf spot: Great Western/Fistral
iAM Bands Level: Green

1) What does surfing mean to you?
Surfing has been a big lifestyle change for me. Coming from London and only surfing on my holidays and weekends to finally moving down and going in everyday and catching green waves is amazing. I’m living the dream. I tend to worry quite a lot, so surfing gives me a way to relax and enjoy myself in the natural elements, but it’s also a great way to have fun with my friends, whilst also making new ones.

2) What is good/bad/annoying/interesting/funny about being a girl surfer?
Georgie and me paddled out at Hippy Beach and the guys let us get loads of waves and didn’t drop in on us, which was nice. But the fact that I’m surrounded by loads of guys all kicking and charging makes me feel quite vulnerable at the same time.

3) How did you find the week: the coaching, the social side, the environment, what were the highlights and was it productive?
Trying out new boards has been great because it’s made me realize what board I should be riding, which is a 6’3 FireWire and is amazing! Going through footage in the evenings has been really productive too, as I can see what I’m doing right and wrong and also copy techniques from others. It’s been such an amazing week with so many highlights and lots of memories.

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Name: Georgia Timson
Age: 18
Local: Newquay
iAM Bands Level: Red

1) What does surfing mean to you?
Surfing is my life. Without surfing I actually have no idea what I would be doing right now. I lived in Leicestershire and moved down to Newquay when I was 7. I surfed for fun on the odd occasion but when I was 14 I started to take surfing a little more seriously. I feel so free when I’m in the water and I feel like I can just let everything go without worrying about anything.

2) What is good/bad/annoying/interesting/funny about being a girl surfer?
One of the best things is when you see other girls in the water, as most of the time I will be the only girl out there. In a male dominated sport, the guys usually seem to compete with one another, but for a girl I think it’s totally different, I feel like it’s more a community. When I’m in the water, and the guys are looking I tend to get more aggressive but by that I mean being busy, catching as many waves as the guys.

3) How did you find the week: the coaching, the social side, the environment, what were the highlights and was it productive?
I thought the coaching was so useful to me, and all the girls too. Doing video footage after each day helped as you can see what you surf like, rather than just people telling you and not seeing for yourself. I learnt a lot about the way I surf and how I need to progress if I want to get to the next level.

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Name: Emma H
Age: 28

Local surf spot: Läjet, Sweden
iAM Bands Level: Blue

1) What does surfing mean to you?
One cold September in Lahinch, Ireland I got up on my very first wave. I’ll never forget the feeling and how amazing it felt to have this board under my feet and glide on the water, I was really hooked from the start. However, with a great fear of water, getting past the whitewater took a very long time. I went to Bali to surf in 2010 and finally got past my worst fear. I’ve been surfing at home in Sweden for three years – and yes you can surf in Sweden, at least sometimes. Now my whole life rotates around weather forecasts and how to get in the water as often as possible before it gets too dark.

I think I love surfing because it is always changing and it’s always a challenge. I (almost) always have fun, even though it does get frustrating from time to time. I’ve never worked so hard at anything as surfing.

I get scared pretty easily and I realised during the bootcamp week, that my fear is that I don’t like not being in control and I can’t really control the sea. Knowing that now I’m going to try to relax a bit more.

2) What is good/bad/annoying/interesting/funny about being a girl surfer?
On a personal level, I find it really funny that when I tell people I got my boyfriend into surfing and not the other way around, most people are surprised by this fact. As if a girl cannot discover the sport on her own without a male influence. I also feel like I have to prove myself when I paddle out in the water, otherwise the guys automatically think I won’t catch a wave cause I’m a girl.

I also get really annoyed that female surfers get more attention for their bottom rather than their bottom turn. I get it that sex sells and that even male surfers are affected by this, however I don’t think a comment on a guy surfing would be: ‘hey, look at those those abs’. For some reason it’s okay to discuss and hashtag #bum on a girl surfing. Things have to change, I do believe raising the question and discussing it, is important, even if it gets uncomfortable. I’ll never accept the answer that this is how it’s always been and always will be.

3) How did you find the week: the coaching, the social side, the environment, what were the highlights and was it productive?
Sam is a really good coach and great at spotting what I was doing wrong. He somehow got me focusing on what I need to be doing better, without me overthinking it. I’ve never really had that before as I’ve just been focusing on surfing and not really on how to get better. I’ve been out surfing a couple of times since I got back and it’s so much fun noticing the difference.

I’ve also loved surfing with a group of girls and cheering each other on. Watching Georgie surf was so much fun, it’s really inspiring to be able to surf with such a talented girl. The Algarve is such a cool place, so beautiful and it has so many different beaches and spots to offer. I’ve got so many great memories from this week and the girls (and Sam) were all amazing. I can’t wait until the next one.

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Name: Annie B
Age: 26
Local surf spot: Torö Stenstrand, Stockholm, Sweden
iAM Bands Level: Green

1) What does surfing mean to you?
I started surfing in the New Zealand whitewater on a trip with my friend who was already an avid surfer. We continued the trip to Bali where we surfed even more. I was scared to death but at the same time I found it really exciting. I just knew that this was something that I wanted more of. I think every surfer comes to this stage where you’re completely hooked and there’s no turning back.

Surfing includes everything that I like and that I missed in one sport; being active in Mother Nature, patience, silence, challenges, adrenaline and so on. Being a surfer from Sweden we kind of have to go on surfing trips around the world in order to find some good waves, since we don’t get that every day. Last summer and this summer I went to the Philippines and I will probably go back next year again.

2) What is good/bad/annoying/interesting/funny about being a girl surfer?

I really enjoyed that this week was a girls’ boot camp. I loved the feeling when all of us girls came to the lineup and kind of took over the place and were cheering each other on with a very positive vibe. Some guys even commented on this and said it was a cool thing. I would like to see more skilled female surfers focusing on their performance instead of what the market wants a female surfer to be. It’s not entirely up to the female surfers to focus on performance but also for the market (sponsors, magazines and brands) to shift how they present female surfers.

3) How did you find the week: the coaching, the social side, the environment, what were the highlights and was it productive?

This week has been an adventure for me in so many ways. I really liked the broad perspective we had in so many things, like our ranges in age and our skills in surfing. I think this made us learn from each other not just in surfing but in other matters as well. The questions and thoughts that we have discussed this week, have given me new insights of what it’s like to be a surfer, particularly a female surfer.

Last but not least, I have learnt so much in surfing from Sam whom I think is a very pedagogical teacher and down-to-earth guy. Every day we made a video analysis that really opened my eyes to how I surf and what I must do to evolve as a surfer. I know I have to spend many hours in the water learning to pick the right waves and get the timing right, but I will not give up. After this week, I really feel like I’ve progressed as a surfer and I can’t wait to come back next year.

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Name: Nina E
Age: 48
Local surf spot: Torö Stenstrand, Sweden
iAM Bands Level: Green

1) What does surfing mean to you?
Surfing for me is about trying to get in flow with the ocean, to feel the connection and cooperation with a wave. It’s not about competition, aggression or attack. Or being the best surfer. I don’t surf alone, just always with friends. The joy over a friend’s progress and the fun we have together are a major part in what I specify as a good surf.

I love the hot dog barbecues we sometimes have at Torö. Gathering around the disposable barbecue after two hours in the surf, freezing and with stiff fingers by the cold – so much joy. I also love how you connect with people known or unknown because you share the same passion.

I fell in love with surfing during a trip to Portugal in 2009. I was charmed not only by the surfing but also the raw nature of the Algarve region and the fantastic beaches; I had found a new passion. In my first years of trying to surf I kept coming back to Portugal, as a beginner learning in the whitewater and as a tourist in love with Portugal.

Three years ago I was ready to surf more regularly, not only going on surf trips but also at home at my local surf spot. As my passion for surfing had grown and become an obsession, I didn’t hesitate surfing in the Baltic Sea and its cold waters. I prefer it from October to February when the wind swell creates the best waves in the Stockholm area. It’s rainy and cold and the Baltic Sea is wild and grey.

2) What is good/bad/annoying/interesting/funny about being a girl surfer?
I went to a boot camp about a year ago and was the only woman in a group of guys. It was fantastic fun and I had a really good time. I’d gladly do it again, no problem.

Being with just girls this year was uplifting. With only girls in the group, we could all relate to the way we felt about surfing. I can recognize the fear of going out in an unknown new surf spot. I can relate much easier to everyone’s struggle. Because for me, surfing is also about overcoming what my mind is telling me not to do. And having girls around me that I know have the same struggle, makes it easier to let go of my mental barriers and instead connect with the wave and go.

It was also fantastic to see Georgie and Milla surf. Two young girls with so much talent who can develop into amazing surfers. Sitting out in the lineup watching Georgie rip a wave with several guys having to get out of her way whilst we all cheered – that was pure pride and happiness.

Yet on another day I overheard how one of the girls in the group was being advised to start hashtagging her pictures with #bum to get more followers on Instagram. I was outraged but not surprised. I am constantly reminded of the ‘sex sells’ formula. Instead of promoting a female surfer as an incredible athlete doing incredible feats of bravery, she is advised to focus on her body.

When it comes to the surfing industry, community and surfing media, I am astonished on how women and female surfers are sexualized and the gender stereotypes that the media and surf industry are presenting. There is a lack of diversity. I wish we could see less of the trivialization or objectification of female surfers. The way women are portrayed in adverts for surf brands is blatantly sexist. Men are shown performing athletic maneuvers, while women stand in sexy poses on the beach – in bikinis, of course. It’s just marketing women as sex objects instead of athletes.

3) How did you find the week: the coaching, the social side, the environment, what were the highlights and was it productive?
The whole week was amazing. The set up by Surf Experience was perfect. We had a luxurious, spacious apartment in the middle of Lagos, which was close to the best restaurants and the local bakery. The food we were served was delicious and Rachel, the resident chef, is a valuable part of the Surf Experience.

It was also hilarious to hang out with two teenagers; a walk down memory lane. The Swedish Emma, English Emma and Annie were crazy fun to be with.

The coaching by Sam was exactly what I needed to be able to get out of my surfing rut. My surfing improved throughout the week and I now have the tools with me to continue at home and progress my surfing.