No Surf Industry, This Surfer Girl Does Not Love You

Proof that neoprene crop tops exist. I maintain they're only slightly less out of place in the lineup than this model's full face of non-waterproof makeup.
What Billabong apparently thinks women should be surfing in this summer.

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[1]. 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.

Compare the suits that Billabong markets to men for spring/summer.
Compare the suits that Billabong markets to men for spring/summer. They also didn’t find it necessary to show the model’s face.

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.

[1] Contrary to the ‘little surfer girl’ stereotype female surfers often have rather large shoulders as a result of years spent paddling after waves.

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Let’s Not Trophy Hunt in the Ocean Either

Abbie Eubanks may be my tocaya, but I'm not impressed. Particularly since she speared that amberjack while SCUBA diving (Hall 31-Mar-2014).
Abbie Eubanks may be my tocaya, but I’m not impressed. Particularly since she speared that amberjack while SCUBA diving (Hall 31-Mar-2014).

As an omnivorous primate I have no issue with conspecifics who hunt to feed their bodies. I do, however, have serious complaints against those who hunt only to feed their egos. I believe it is shameful for trophy hunters to kill animals which are no threat to them and that they do not plan on eating. Judging by the pressure being put on airlines to refuse to transport hunting trophies, many people agree with me.

Thus far most anti-trophy hunting sentiment has only been extended on behalf of land animals, which is unfortunate, because trophy hunting of fish and marine invertebrates may be even more environmentally problematic. The desire to kill the largest fish, lobster, or abalone, not only likely leads to selection for these species to become smaller (Conover 2000; Hamilton 2007) but also jeopardizes the continued survival of these species. Unlike most trophy hunted land animals, who cease growing after sexual maturity and often do not show very clear relationships between female body size and fertility (Green and Rothstein 1991; Guinet et al. 1998) most fish and marine invertebrate species continue growing throughout their lives and it is the largest oldest females who produce the most eggs. This means that marine trophy hunters are likely to kill a population’s most important breeders as they attempt to inflate their egos by killing the largest individuals. While land-based hunters can try to compensate for this by ‘chivalrously’ only killing males, most sea hunters cannot tell the difference between live male and female tuna, billfish, snappers, or groupers.

Furthermore, attempting to apply land-based big game hunting ethics to fish can be extremely problematic. Mammals as a rule do not change sex[1], but many fish do. In species like the California sheephead, fish begin their lives as females and metamorphose to males once they grow large enough to take control of a harem. When a harem male is killed, one of the females changes sex to replace him, but the change is not instantaneous and may leave the harem without mating opportunities for several months. In this case targeting the largest and most impressive fish may be more unsustainable than hunting ‘unchivalrously’.

Clearly while fish do not inspire as much human sympathy as land animals do, they are no more morally acceptable as corpses to lay on the altar of the ego and using them as such may be even more ecologically damaging than using land animals for this purpose. Those of us who pursue fish with poles or spears must afford our prey the proper respect. We must not kill more than we can eat fresh[2], we must show the intelligence and humility to spare the best breeders, and we must understand that true predators hunt for sustenance, not for self-aggrandizement.

Sources:

Conover DO. 2000. Darwinian fishery science. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 208, 299-213 darwinianfisheriesscience

Green WCH, Rothstein A. 1991. Trade-offs between growth and reproduction in female bison. Oecologia 86, 521-527 bisonfertility

Guinet C, Roux JP, Bonnet M, Mison V. 1998. Effect of body size, body mass, and body condition on reproduction of female South African fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus) in Namibia. Can. J. Zool. 76, 1418-1424 fursealfertility Hall, J. 31-Mar-2014.

“Spearfishing: Blue Water Big Game”. http://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/gone-fishin/2014/03/spear-fishing-speargun. Accessed 11-Jun-2015

Hamilton SL, Caselle JE, Standish JD, Schroeder DM, Love MS, Rosales-Casian JA, Sosa-Nishizaki O. 2007. Size-selective harvesting alters life histories of a temperate sex-changing fish. Ecological Applications 17(8), 2268-2280 sheepheads

[1] Obviously some humans do have gender identities that differ from the sex they were assigned at birth and I support their right to be identified as the gender of their choice, but medical science has not advanced far enough to enable mammals, human or otherwise, to switch from producing eggs to sperm or vice versa.

[2] No fish has ever spawned in a freezer.