Thoughts from a Teenage Surfer

The aim of this short series of blog posts is to try to shed some insight into differing perspectives on surfing and in particular women accessing surfing. I’ll share my personal journey too, but one of the most interesting things about starting Yonder and working closely with women from the North East and beyond (we have ladies from further afield than we imagined coming along, including, London, Brighton, Wales, Sheffield and even a lady from the USA coming on our Morocco trip) is that we all have differing experiences with our journeys into surfing.

There’s no debating it, thirteen million women say they would like to participate more in sport or physical activity but 6 million of those are not currently active. Sport England’s findings also show that though there are more girls participating in activities when they are younger, the gender gap is at its largest with this age group and it’s at this key age that girls in particular, stop participating in ‘sport and exercise. Freya gives us a little bit of insight into how it’s been growing up as one of the relatively few girls surfing on the east coast.

Freya is a sixteen year old surfer from the North East of England. Thanks for sharing your beautifully written and from-the-soul thoughts Freya.

Surfing. To most it’s just a word, a verb, a sport: not to me. That was a dramatic opening, but surfing is a BIG part of my life. Sally asked me to share my “surf journey “and especially what it means to be a girl in the surf community which got me thinking, what is it truly like to be a girl in the water? I can still remember my first few surf experiences vividly.

In my first ever lesson I was one of the only two girls in the lesson, in my second I was the only girl. But all this changed when I joined surf club! I remember standing in the shallows watching these older girls joke and surf together, in the changing rooms with their Roxy backpacks and being in awe- girls surfed too and they were awesome! Then suddenly in an instant (or in the emergence of teenagerness) most of them stopped coming and I was suddenly one of the “older” girls in surf club.

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How had this happened? Or more crucially why? It became a recurring pattern, girls would join and leave when they got to a certain age, it’s still happening. And not just with surfing, virtually none of my friends partake in sport outside of school. I’ve been lucky, my whole family surfs and I’ve never felt intimidated to surf with the boys (I can be quite competitive), I couldn’t imagine stopping surfing for anything. Yet so many of the girls around me do. I don’t think it’s that we’re without role models, the north east is home to some of the most incredible female surfers and I hope to surf like them some day. I think it’s to do with confidence or maybe the pressures we feel from elsewhere; being a teenager is difficult, it makes you feel awkward and anxious, the pressure schools put on students is obscene, is it any wonder we forget how to play? It’s hard to pinpoint why girls seem to stop doing sport, I’m not going to lie I don’t really understand why some of my friends stopped, has teenage life got in the way? Maybe if girls knew they had a group of other girls to supporting them, they’d feel more uplifted or encouraged to surf/try sports. I don’t just love surfing because it’s fun, but because it de-stresses me, it keeps me fit, it’s taught me countless lessons (bravery, respect, individuality to name a few) and given me opportunities I never dreamed of when I started out.

I think another big thing is making surfing a passion. I surf with quite a few girls in surf club but when it comes to free surfs, they’re few and far between. It’s easy to look at the report and say it’s too cold, too big, too messy and rollover back to sleep (we all do, boys included, naming no names ahem) but I think it’s even easier to do that when you don’t have anyone pushing you, saying “come on let’s go for a surf!”. When I surf with other people, I’m so much more likely to make an effort, to push myself. If more girls surfed, there’d be more girls to surf with and wouldn’t that be amazing, a sisterhood of wetsuit boots and bobble hats, cheering each other into waves and not caring about appearances? If nothing else, surfing is the perfect opportunity to let go of the usual teenage constraints of hair, fashion and make up, ‘cos quite frankly no one cares that you’re covered in snot if you’ve just scored the wave of the day!

Give the awesome Freya a follow at @freyamodesty

Thanks to Jordy Walker for the screengrab from “Needles in Your Face" - A Vice Documentary about surfing in the North East of England featuring Freya and her family.

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