First of all I would like to clarify this is not a criticism of the sport of surfing itself, which I love and keeps me sane. This is also not a criticism of male surfers who, for the most part, understand that women are people and should be treated as such. This is directed exclusively at the makers of surfing equipment who insist on treating female surfers as eye-candy for a particularly kooky manifestation of the male gaze, rather than as the athletes we are.
Every time I find myself shopping for a spingsuit or a swimsuit I face the same frustrating situation. Surf industry designers seem to think that they should be dressing women to pose on the cover of Maxim rather than to ride actual waves. Swimsuit tops tend to be wardrobe malfunctions waiting to happen and tend not to accommodate the ‘surfer-physique’ well at all. Bonus points if those tops are equipped with fringe that makes them impossible to wear under a wetsuit. Swimsuit bottoms are even worse and often provide unwanted opportunities for both a tandoori tuchus and a bikini wax by Mr. Zog, neither of which is comfortable.
I can almost forgive the impracticality of the women’s swimsuits sold at most surf shops, because they are likely intended as fashion accessories better suited for the pool party than the paddle-out. I have yet to see wetsuits, however, catch on for any purpose other than keeping someone warm in cold or cool water. Unfortunately, the makers of women’s wetsuits, other than long sleeve fullsuits, seem to have prioritized showcasing the female form over the garment’s actual intended function. Currently O’Neill, Quicksilver, Rip Curl, Body Glove, and Billabong all offer short sleeve fullsuits for men, but only Roxy, Quicksilver’s counterpart ladies line, has the same product available for women. All of the companies, however, do seem to be happy to supply springsuits with bottoms cut like bikinis or thongs, neoprene crop tops, or front-zippers designed for exposing one’s décolletage to every eyeball and UV ray in the general vicinity. I’m sure my readers can understand why paddling with a zipper pressed between one’s stomach and a surfboard would be unpleasant and that neoprene crop tops, which are likely to result in both wax rash and weird tan lines for the wearer, are only slightly more useful than a fur bikini.
I acknowledge that most women have more melanin than I do and therefore might not be quite as afraid of exposing skin to the sun unnecessarily as I am. I also understand that many female surfers may draw more inspiration from Alana Blanchard than Pauline Menczer and would rather look like a beauty than surf like a beast. I have no objection to surf companies making products to suit these customers, but they should not forget about us women who surf for stoke rather than sex appeal. Surf company executives probably don’t want any love from me or any other “bushpigs” who would rather use our time in the water for the pleasure of improving our own performances and the achieving the state of flow that can only be reached on a wave face than use it as yet another way to attract male attention, but they do still want our money. They need to understand that by designing only for the beauties they’re missing out on the market share of the beasts who might otherwise buy their products. After all, imagine all the money the running industry would miss out on if all the women’s shoe design was left exclusively to foot fetishists. So please wetsuit makers, design some products for the women who use them; instead of focusing on surf-inspired fashion accessories that look good in magazine shoots but are not very practical in the waves.
 Contrary to the ‘little surfer girl’ stereotype female surfers often have rather large shoulders as a result of years spent paddling after waves.