Women in the surf world have had a tough battle getting the publicity and sponsorship dollars of male surfers, and to leave behind the bikini-clad image that is ingrained in the culture.
A new surf movie by producer Dayla Soul aims to advance this conversation. It Ain’t Pretty follows three years of the lives of a group of women surfers based in the Bay Area. It’s set at Ocean Beach, a break characterized by heavy surf, ruthless currents, and generally chaotic conditions. Then, just 20 miles to the south lies Mavericks, one of the world’s most celebrated big wave arenas, where top-tier big wave surfers flock every winter.
“This film documents a new movement in the Bay Area that is rippling throughout the world. The next generation of female surfers is defined by how women are portrayed in the media. Told through the lens of surfing, this film is about creating new role models based on ability and determination,” Soul said, who has lived and surfed in the Bay for years.
The movie arrives at a pivotal time. The annual Titans of Mavericks contest, which attracts the best surfers in the world, has been under scrutiny for years for not having a women’s division, and is discussed in the film in a segment called Titans of Tomorrow.
Recently, it was decided that for the 2016-17 event, there would be one women’s heat with $30,000 in prize money up for grabs. While this change was celebrated as an advancement, many were surprised that one of the film’s stars, Bianca Valenti — who is considered a pioneer at Mavericks — was not selected as one of the official contestants, but as an alternate, in case of injury.
One of the barriers to more advancement of women’s big wave surfing is that there is less interest, but Soul says that is a myth. “Statistics actually show way more viewership on women’s big wave surfing than men’s, although the coverage and money don’t equal that … I wanted to spark a larger conversation about where inequality lies throughout, and not just surfing, but looking at it through the lens of surfing,” Soul explains.
Several of the athletes, including Valenti, will be at the movie for a Q&A after the film, which is presented by the Squaw Valley Institute. In addition, there will be an opportunity to meet several female ski patrollers from the Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows team. They will also be selling and autographing their 2017 Women of Ski Patrol calendar with photography by local photographer Keoki Flagg.