Women Of The Waves.
By Nikki Rose.
All 📷 @shanechalkerphotography.
I’m sure it would come as no shock to readers that entries in the womens divisions across comps can be hit and miss, mostly miss. I don’t believe it is due to womens entrants being flakey or unreliable competitiors. It is more likely an issue of entering into a competition when you are new to the sport being super intimidating, especially if you don’t know anyone there or maybe you simply just don’t think your skill level is good enough.
There are several clubs that are supportive and inclusive of a womens division in their standalone comps and as a group we try to repay that support with dollars and full divisions. If you make your potential entrants feel like a token addition or that by asking to be included under equal terms is an inconvenience…..it shouldn’t be surprising if we give your comp a miss. Overheard: “there was a womens division offered but no one showed up so now we don’t bother” Yeah, nice. It’s our fault your comp wasn’t inclusive or promoted appropriately. You didn’t get entries this year, so what is being done to address that lack of interest moving into next year? Usually nothing, it makes me furious.
Creating an environment that is supportive and women friendly surely isn’t rocket science. Apparently so though, with some platforms not adapting or progressing. You can’t expect to be successful and experience growth when organisers are relying on the opens division entries alone. I’m not denying the open mens is the bread and butter; the division that will help attract sponsorship. However, by investing little in efforts to attract new interest from other divisions it is not sustainable and a pretty average long term plan.
This being said I feel there is a positive momentum on the east coast with supportive clubs that are keen to have women involved and a good core crew of riders that are down to pay their entry fees, road trip for the weekend and have fun.
This tide of change has really been headed by Forster BodyBoarding Club (FBC) and the Chalker Family. Their ongoing support, encouragement and engagement of young female bodyboarders from their area has a new generation consistently turning up and wanting to be a part of local and bigger competitions.
This is no small feat as it wasn’t that long ago that Millie Chalker was turning up to events by herself; surfing in straight finals or mixed in with other divisions.
The Port Macqaurie BodyBoarding Assoc (PMBA) run Teams Challenge run over the June Long weekend. This annual comp is one of the more popular competitions for female riders and spots filled up fast this year; as they have for the 3 years that I have participated in it as a member of the women’s team: Women of the Waves. PMBA have consistently been a massive supporter of womens bodyboarding and have always welcomed our team entry without hesitation.
As a group we want the girls to have fun, test their skills in a competitive setting and meet some new people from other clubs. It’s made very clear in the group chat from the outset that any skill level is welcome. The more the merrier. Even if you aren’t competing come hang!
We want the team to have a positive time so that they want to come back next year (with some mates). Quite often comps can leave a bitter taste in your mouth: either you got knocked out early, the surf wasn’t ideal or you found the other competitors to be cliquey or rude.
The comp format for the Teams Challenge means that you surf twice regardless and the pressure isn’t there because you are part of team. This makes it an easier sell to not just a first time competitor but also to an experienced rider. I know that I’m going to have a good time regardless of swell, or placings in my heats because I know the crew is going to be there and the vibe will be good.
I’m not going to lie, the girls as a group are pretty full on. If team spirit isn’t your thing I don’t think this weekend is for you. I jump on the positivity bandwagon because the kindness is genuine and infectious. But, please know, that I am completely exhausted by the end of the weekend from all the good vibes.
It’s refreshing to be surrounded by 100% support and acceptance.
The below are some things that stuck out to me over the weekends competition:
*Group pictures: these are a must. Pre heat and post heat to reinforce the team aspect. I’m sure any of the other competitors from the weekends competition would have seen us head down to the waters edge to congratulate our team mate on a solid effort.
*Loud cheering and endless encouragement: Egos aside, it doesn’t matter how well you actually surfed in your heat; you put yourself out there and had a go. There was a lot of emphasis placed on confidence building with the more experienced riders sharing tips and knowledge. Ground work stuff like developing and sticking to a plan, where to paddle out, where to sit and wave selection. These are crucial elements to not only competition surfing but surfing in general.
*Free surfs with the crew: this is the one for me. Having the opportunity to surf with a group of your female peers is everything. Especially if you don’t get to very often or at all. It’s a very different energy. Less aggression and more flow and grace, plenty of laughter.
I’m so proud of all the women that competed this year it was a really positive weekend.
The Women of the Waves team for 2021:
Deborah Partos, Kahyla Pisani, Millie Chalker, Evaline Mussi – DK
Gemma McNally – (Junior), Holly King, Milica Ivic, Erin Welford, Cheryl Arnold and myself.
Next stop for the hype squad will be the Jeff Wilcox, run by FBC in July. Another opportunity to support the clubs that show us genuine support. If you are a female that’s just getting into bodyboarding or if you know of someone that would benefit from some support, encouragement and zero judgement, send them our way. We will look after them ❤.