“Native legends abound with the exploit of those who attained distinction among their fellows by their skill and daring in the sport [surfing] indulged in by both sexes, and frequency too — as in these days of intellectual development — the gentler sex often carried off the highest honors.”
— Thrum’s Hawaiian Annual 1896
Waves are smooth, flowing, graceful objects that can overcome any object in their path, and riding waves well requires one be smooth, flowing and graceful.
That said, women, in the highly biased eye of this observer, are good candidates to ride waves as well as men. Not that it matters to me. I simply enjoy riding waves and watching other people ride well.
Those who surfed in the 14th annual Super Girl Surf Pro at Oceanside Pier from Sept. 17 to Sept. 19 of this year proved the point. Held in 2- to 3-foot glassy peaks, the women involved showed spectacular ability in all aspects of the sport.
The contest area was divided between shortboard competitors, on the south side of the pier, and longboarders surfing on the north side.
Longboard surfing, which concentrates primarily on style, graceful turns and noseriding, was as pretty as was expected while the shortboard surfing, which is mostly centered on radical maneuvers, shot adrenaline through the crowd.
(Think of longboarding as driving a ’66 Caddy down a country road and shortboarding as redlining a Ferrari 365 through the mountains.)
They both provide amazing but different feelings.
Even at my age — never mind what that is — I enjoy a clean blast of adrenaline and therefore spent most of my time on the south side where last year’s winner, Oceanside 15-year-old Caitlin Simmers, was barely edged out by 19-year-old San Clemente surfer, Caroline Marks.
It came down to one wave where Marks launched her board into a clean aerial to win the final heat by a fraction of a point. Both surfers were on, but a changing tide left Simmers wave-starved as she settled for small, closed-out and low-scoring waves.
Nonetheless, the surfing was clean, radical and occasionally spectacular, so much so that it kept the crowd shouting for the entire 45-minute final.
Meanwhile on the other side of the pier, water ballet was being performed as San Diego’s Summer Romero took a solid second to Oahu’s Kirra Seale. Regardless of what you were looking to see that day, it was evident that women’s surfing had arrived, again, just as it had in those days of “intellectual development.”
After all my gushing over women’s surfing, I must now admit that I don’t understand why such a term exists.
I am reminded of a time in the mid-’60s when 12-year-old Margo Godfrey took top honors at the La Jolla Shores Menehune Contest.
Surfing belongs to anyone who dares paddle out and ride a wave.
I envision the day when there will be no separation of surfers by gender and the best battle it out to see who prevails on a given day.
When that day comes, I envision Caroline, Kirra and Summer taking on anyone brave enough to challenge them.
By then I expect Caitlin Simmers to be in her prime, and if that’s the case, all bets are off.