Take Me To Your Leader?
Without wanting to seem like a dog returning to its vomit, the little Riptide Porngate saga did toss up an interesting conundrum for Bodyboarding in Australia.
The number of female voices involved in the sport who overwhelmingly responded both publicly and privately with the frustration they felt at the barriers to inclusion that exist in Bodyboarding in attracting more women riders ultimately leads to the asking of the question ” What can we do about it?”
Now, on the personal level the answer seems easy to address. Respect and communication are the keystones of any positive relationship. A shift in culture comes with a shift in attitude. Individually we can all do our part to make conversations, interactions and line ups less threatening and more inclusive for women.
However, from a wider sport perspective in Australia, the key issue that exists is the lack of a National governing body that can work towards and put in places measures to help redress the low uptake of female riders and other imbalances such as the lack of young riders taking up Bodyboarding in Australia.
While local clubs are doing a bang up awesome job of giving willing competitors an encouraging and supportive outlet to engage in boogin’, zooming out to a wider national level reveals a sport with no governing body, no professional or amateur national tour, no representation with government surfing bodies on a state or national level, no plan, no coherence and no guidance as to the future of the sport.
Currently Surfing Australia runs a limited series of State and National titles which are not well supported, fail to attract the majority of the most talented riders in the country in each division and thus hold little prestige. Surfing Australia also receive zero input or consultation from any Bodyboarding representatives about the running of these events.
What other sport that wants to be taken seriously and grow their participation numbers would leave the management of their activity to a group of outsiders who have no love or dedication to it?
This isn’t a crack at the state and national Surfing bodies in Oz, in fact we should be seeking to emulate the successful steps they’ve taken in creating and conducting speciality youth, women’s and team events that have encouraged record number of new people’s from many different walks of life to take up surfing.
Take for example Nudie juice surfgroms program run by Surfing Australia. According to the last annual report available on their website, since it began in 2011, over 60,000 kids have registered and taken part. 60 delivery partners have helped the program generate 10 million dollars’ worth of revenue into the Surfing Australia surf schools’ program.
The Surfgroms program is funded by the Australian Government to the tune of 100 million dollars. This program is aimed at encouraging primary school aged kids of both sexes to engage with new sports and live more active and healthy lifestyles.
Bodyboarding in Australia gets exactly zero slice of this pie because we simply have nobody requesting even a sliver of it.
If we want to help encourage more participants from diverse backgrounds to take up boogin’, we need to form a governing body dedicated to fostering bodyboarding in Australia. We need to identify clear goals of what we want bodyboarding participation rates to look like in the future. We need to develop a strategy for growing the sport, define a structure for how to do it, and cultivate a network of people willing to support those efforts.
A national governing body would work with private industry, state and federal government bodies and Surfing Australia to secure funding and support for programs, pathways and events focused on encouraging more grommets, women and other identified demographics of growth to participate in Bodyboarding.
Greater participation rates would help funnel more money into Bodyboarding associated companies and industries and help generate more media, exposure and interest in the wider community, hopefully propelling even greater uptake in numbers.
The opportunities and funding exist out there, however, in Australia we are currently just not accessing it.
Serious Bodyboarding countries throughout Europe, South an Time to get our shit together.