Girls Can't Surf Could Be the Most Important Surfing Documentary To Date - Stab Mag
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Girls Can’t Surf Could Be the Most Important Surfing Documentary To Date

Women’s sport has had to claw its way to where it is today. Surfing is no exception. Whilst in 2020 many of the top ranked female surfers are more visible (and demand bigger salaries) than their male counterparts, in professional surfing’s inception they were second class citizens. Girls Can’t Surf is the story of how the trailblazing […]

style // Dec 11, 2020
Words by Alistair Klinkenberg
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Women’s sport has had to claw its way to where it is today.

Surfing is no exception. Whilst in 2020 many of the top ranked female surfers are more visible (and demand bigger salaries) than their male counterparts, in professional surfing’s inception they were second class citizens. Girls Can’t Surf is the story of how the trailblazing women of the 80s World Tour were excluded, pushed around, and subsequently kicked up an almighty stink to begin dragging the male-dominated surfing world into the (relatively) equal state it’s in today.


Then came a group of ambitious female surfers who’d already had to fight their way into the pecking order at the misogynistic beaches they grew up on. Jodie Cooper, Pam Burridge, Frieda Zamba, Jolene and Jorja Smith, Wendy Botha and Pauline Menzer, among others, decided that they weren’t going to put up with being disrespected any longer. Girls Can’t Surf documents their battle against rampant sexism, in particular the traditional rhetoric of being told they weren’t pretty or skinny enough to warrant being paid a wage that their sporting ability warranted, and, having to hide their sexuality.


Girls Can’t Surf
 is a remarkable piece of documentary filmmaking. Directed by Christopher Nelius (Storm Surfers, Buoy), written by the director and Julie-Anne De Ruvo (an award winning editor and writer who’s been in the biz for two decades), it’s a warts and all exploration of all the adversity this remarkable collective of women faced. The archival footage they’ve sourced is fascinating, and hearing the women talk over it about their experiences in hindsight, is as insightful as the backwards attitudes of male surfers on tour at the time.

The film won’t be available to watch in full until March next year, but the good news is that it’s set for widespread release in cinemas throughout Australia. Watch this space for more of a deep dive into the characters in the film on Stab, but in the meantime believe us when we say that this is a must see film, and well worth watching on the big screen with popcorn in hand when the opportunity arises. 

Keep your eye on the Girls Can’t Surf IG for the specifics.

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