Isn’t it so interesting how once someone gets to the latter part their career, we accept that they are tenacious, fierce, motivated and energised? We celebrate it and hold it as a strength and asset and pinpoint on the highlight years or moments of their time. Lane Beachley didn’t always receive that recognition – in fact quite the opposite. The fact that after decades of promoting her sport of surfing, after years of dominating that sport and winning title after title, she is now resting on a mantle of respect and adoration is wonderful. Thank goodness she had the internal compass and the energy to continue working for equality despite hardship, arguments, professional knock backs and more.
Change will never happen if someone doesn’t push the status quo. In the face of adversity it is always so inspirational when someone stands strong in the current and pushes back against established norms and passive oppression. Surfing isn’t new, and like so many origin stories, it came from a place of equality before with time and social influence it became yet another sport of male dominance and resultant exclusion for women.
Lane Beachley entered the circuit when women were being given opportunities to participate, but they were remarkably “less than”. Sponsorship challenges, competition pay disparity for the male versus female winners, outward sexism, physical sabotage by men sharing the ocean – it must have taken a great deal of grit and determination some days to even stay on the board, or walk out into the waves in the first place.
Throughout the competition circuits of the 80’s and 90’s female surfers were shunted to the side, the athletes put in shadow or left completely out while the bikini models paraded stages simply because they didn’t attract the male gaze suitably to warrant the investment. The female athletes were sexualising themselves to get into the magazines and garner the smallest mite of attention. It is the same story told again and again, and somehow it is this story that endlessly sees the player being hated, not the game.
I love that Lane Beachley and the other female surfers on the circuit rallied against this exclusion and bullying to continue pushing themselves to the front and centre. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a hell of a lot of team work to restructure the perception of an entire gender’s capacity to participate in a sport. Beachley has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the community and I love that her continued involvement with charity work, public motivation speaking and coaching are just extensions of the endless energy and passion she demonstrates in her actions and career.
In the modern example, the lack of parity in surfing became an international conversation after the below photo, demonstrating that inequality in the sport is well established, even in the junior circuit.
The tongue in cheek comments about how Zoe must have surfed 50 per cent of the waves, or somehow they’d put the “lady’s waves” around the corner from the big men’s waves demonstrated how ridiculous the disparity actually is in this sport. Man, woman, child – if they are surfing on the same day, in the same conditions, on the same bloody waves, there is not a lot left to be said. They are equal and they deserve to be treated us such. Like many sports, the female athletes are drawing their own fans into the orbit – fellow ladies looking to expand into the sport, of course, but also men who can appreciate the athletic prowess it takes to tackle a wave and conquer it on a tiny little chunk of fibre glass.
Reading and learning about Lane Beachley is incredibly motivational, which makes perfect sense because every time you see a photo of her, or watch a video of her dropping into a wave, you see a calm and unwavering desire to unite people, promote people to be their best and continued demonstration of what it is to be beyond passionate about what you do. What a wonderful person to have on this planet, and what a wonderful imprint she is leaving on it for future generations.
Thank you to the following websites: