#SheWatches Girls Can’t Surf

March 11, 2021


So it was said Girls Can’t Surf and this wonderful somewhat frustrating historical documentary, gives you hope. It is a downright reminder of how long it can take to be included, treated as an equal, recognised, respected, and paid for your ability, even when girls sure can surf! 

I could relate to the film well, I started surfing as a young girl because I wanted to stand on a board in the ocean and slide on a wave to shore. The white polystyrene boogie board was not enough because I couldn’t stand up.  So dad built my older brother and me a wooden surfboard that didn’t even have a keel/fin back then. It worked a treat for kids even though it was extremely heavy to carry and difficult to steer. 

Following this, we were given a fibreglass longboard with a fin, mainly due to my pestering dad. I was in seventh heaven when I paddled fast, jumped from knees to feet, and glided my vessel into shore. There were no shortboards nor lessons in those days. Years later I eventually progressed to my custom-made Bob McTavish longboard. I still have it although it’s been years since it tasted the saltwater. 

To experience that first sensational glide on the water, succumbing to nature allowing it to take you to reach solid land is freedom like none other. The idea of pursuing this further was not what girls did then. I know differently of course. 

I loved watching this documentary. Its revealing story is one of courage and determination and I applaud anyone who surfs on life-threatening waves that are so scary you could have nightmares over them. 

 The Story

It begins in the 1980s during the world professional surfing circuit where male egos were larger than they should be, bikini-clad women were known only for what they wore, female surfers were overruled by male domination and a society that believed women were there to improve the décor.  

The sport up until this point, epitomized by the hippie counterculture of the 70s, and the Beach Boy scene of the 60s, was now going pro. The female surfing community wanted and should have been included, and on an equal playing field, yet shamefully this wasn’t the case until the 21st century.

Equal pay, equal waves this story needed to be told and it is with almost disbelief it took up until 2018 when Billabong and the World Surf League (WSL) faced mass criticism over the 50 percent difference in prize money between the male and female winner’s cheques.  Finally, in 2019 the WSL adjusted the pay gap and it is now equal prize money for women and men. 

The movie follows the journey of a band of renegade female surfers who took the male-dominated professional surfing world to a new level. As a viewer, I saw it as a marginalised battle over sexism, heartbreak, mental health, frustrations, embarrassment, and a life of frugality and sacrifice to finally achieve what we have today, equality in the surfing world forever.

The inspirational live footage of surfing legends Jodie Cooper, Frieda Zamba, Pauline Menczer, Lisa Andersen, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha, Layne Beachley, Stephanie Gilmore, and more is fantastic. 

It is about women fighting against the odds to make their dreams of competing and equity a reality. We say thank you to the women who fought to carve this path for future generations to where women’s surfing is a multi-billion-dollar industry today 



Key Interviewees: Jolene Smith, Joria Smith, Jodie Cooper, Pam Burridge, Frieda Zamba, Pauline Menczer, Wendy Botha, Lisa Andersen, Layne Beachley, Alisa Schwarzstein-Cairns, Rochelle Ballard, Nick Carroll, Jamie Brisick, Ian Cairns 

A huge thanks to the following for telling this true story as it is:

Director, Christopher Nelius

Writers, Christopher Nelius & Julie-Anne de Ruvo, 

Producers, Michaela Perske, Christopher Nelius 

In cinemas 11 March 2021

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