Back in 1998, Susan Orlean wrote an amazing article for the Fall 1998 edition of Women Outside about the teenage surfer girls of Maui that invokes the same daredevil sisterhood I love about cycling.
Sometimes watching them I couldn’t believe that they could head out so offhandedly into the ocean; this ocean, which had rolls of white water coming in as fast as you could count them, and had a razor-blade reef hidden just below the surface, and was full of sharks. The girls, on the other hand, couldn’t believe I’d never surfed; never ridden a wave standing up or lying down, never cut back across the whitewash and sent up a lacy veil of spray, never felt a longboard slip out from under me and then felt myself pitched forward and under for that immaculate, quiet, black instant when all the weight in the world presses you down toward the ocean bottom until the moment passes and you get spat up on the beach. I explained I’d grown up in Ohio, where there is no surf, but that didn’t satisfy them; what I didn’t say was that I’m not sure that at 15 I had the abandon or the indomitable sense of myself that you seem to need in order to look at this wild water and think, I will glide on top of those waves.
Speaking of surfers, is anyone jealous of the clothes they get? They get bikinis and tiny little shorts and tank tops in candy colors and bright, splashy patterns; we get baggy, dowdy sleeveless tops in powder blue with a bird silkscreened in reflective ink over the heart and windproof jackets in black, black, and black. Ugh. Can someone from Roxy or Quicksilver start designing cycling apparel, please?
Quick note about race issues brought up by this article after the jump.
Just a quick note: this article glorifies and fetishizes blonde hair. This always kinds of squicks me out, as a Person of Color; it bothers me that the feminine ideal, in this case the Surfer Girl Ideal, is something I could never be because I’m brown.
I thought I was being overly sensitive, but a white friend who used to surf brought the same thing up, unprompted by me; that she always felt “less than” as a surfer who wasn’t blonde. Anyway, yes, it’s a creepy undercurrent, no, we don’t agree with it, and for the record, Tiny Fix thinks girls can be knee-weakeningly hot stone cold badasses no matter what color their hair is.