Tips on being the only lady in the lineup!

We are no strangers to being one of the only ladies in the line up, powder seeking in the mountains, kayak adventuring or even in a corporate meeting and sometimes it gets a little tiresome and discouraging. We spoke to some badass ladies and fellow adventure seekers around the world who are at various levels in their surfing ability and asked for their tips of overcoming this feeling in the context of surfing. 

The key things we learnt - grab a bunch of mates, find a friendly break and a big board if you are just beginning and get out there, no matter the conditions. We hope you read this and are inspired to organise your next ladies surf trip, say hi to other ladies in the water or if you are a male then spare a thought for the lone female surfer out there and encourage your lady mates to jump in with you next time!

Meet Jessica Niederer, a Kiwi and local Mount Maunganui charger.

Jess is an absolute legend who also spends her working hours looking after little humans as an early childhood teacher. Here is Jess’s approach to being a female surfer.

Q – Local beach and ideal day out surfing? 

My Local is Hart Street at the Mount. I love surfing in the summer anywhere along the coast or at the Island with a bunch of mates! It’s always awesome to get out there with a bunch of girlfriends to push each other. 

Q - Do you ever have any issues with jumping in the water knowing you might be the only female out there?  

I don’t really have any issues being the only female out there but I do find it frustrating when guys underestimate my abilities and try to paddle around me or drop in on me. It’s a confidence thing too, I need to get more aggressive out there! 

I always love seeing other chicks out there surfing. We have to remember not to take it all so seriously, smile more and say hi to each other! We share something pretty special together out there. 

Q – What’s one piece of advice for ladies out there thinking about surfing (or any new adventure sport) to make sure we have even more ladies in the line up! 

Just get out there and do it! Find a friend who’s always keen and will encourage you to get in the water on big or small days. It’s always more fun with a mate! You can laugh with each other, celebrate with each other and enjoy the ocean together. Surf the shit days to make yourself better for the epic days! 

Meet Karine Bodeker from the Netherlands.

Karine is a rad lady who grew up far away from the ocean but still has managed to find her love for the sea and surfing and currently lives in Portugal during the surf season, working at a ladies surf camp. Karine has surfed all around the world and has a Dutch perspective on being a lady amongst a bunch of males in a lineup! 

Q – local beach and your ideal day out surfing?  

I don’t have a local beach as I didn’t grow up near the ocean but I lived in Raglan, NZ for half a year! My ideal day out would be a sunny day at a sandy beach break of left and right handers with different breaks so people are spread out in the line up. It would be a sunset surf with nice friendly and a bunch of friends, that’s the best.  

Q - Do you ever have any issues with jumping in the water knowing you might be the only female out there? 

Most of the time I go out in the water I am the only girl or there might be 1 or 2 others but there will be around 15 or 20 guys. Sometimes I do think about it and feel a bit intimidated because most of the time the guys are pretty good surfers and it can make you feel a bit self conscious.  

I don’t really have an issue with it as I am used to it and when I started surfing it was often only guys and I was the only kook in the line up. I don’t care as I want to improve my surfing so I just focus on that. But I do find it really depends on the crowd, I have found in Europe surfers seem to be a bit more chilled and relaxed and will even support you and tell you which wave to go for but it is not always like that. Some popular places like Raglan in NZ and busy spots in Australia can be pretty aggressive as everyone wants to get their fair share of the waves. I think finding a place with the right crowd is important.  

Q - Do you think it has an impact on other female mates getting in the water?  

I think it definitely has an impact on girls because not everybody is confident in themselves and that makes it pretty tough when the water is dominated by guys. I have friends who have told me that they don’t like surfing in some spots as there are so many guys in the water and although they want to catch waves they wont commit as they are too afraid to stuff it up in front of the guys.  

Q – What’s one piece of advice for ladies out there thinking about surfing to make sure we have even more ladies in the line up? 

Go for it, do it, go as many times as you can. When I first started I watched videos and saw pro girls doing turns and imagined myself doing those kind of tricks in a few months but then started and realised that is not how it works.  

So if you want to get better go out a few times a week and stay surf fit. Go for a beach break with a sandy bottom and no rocks and get a really nice big board like a foamy to learn on. Don’t give up, it is really hard in the beginning and you will be very sore! It is a tough sport and takes years of practice to get good at surfing. But it is so rewarding, catching a wave is the best feeling in the world, nothing really can compare! 

Meet Linnéa Birnbo, a rad Swedish surfer.

Linnéa is not afraid of cold water (or men) and has some great tips below. 

Q – local beach and your ideal day out surfing?  

My local beach is Sandhamn in Sweden, a small little beach that has a bit of a point but is mostly a windswell and short rides. Once in a while I get clean good waves at home, and that’s awesome. A good session at home beats everything – even in the freezing winter time, Swedish people are the biggest frothers.  

  My ideal day out surfing is sunset, clean glassy waves just around head high and sharing it with a few good mates. Preferably at my favourite spot Indicators, Raglan, a spot I also consider as my second home.  

Q - Do you ever have any issues with jumping in the water knowing you might be the only female out there? 

I’m used to be the only girl, and it isn’t something I reflect about too much. If I’m out there it means that there is at least one girl out there and hopefully it will bring more girls out.  

 Although I don’t have any issues at all being the only girl out, I can sometimes feel pressure to perform in a session. It’s hard to tell how much of the pressure is because I want to prove that girls can be good surfers, or if it’s just because I’m a competitive person.  

I do also sometimes experience sexism in the water.  Some guys will give up waves and tell you to paddle on a shit wave yelling “Go girl, Go!” and then take a better one behind it. Or they might tell you they wont mind if you would drop in on them because then they would have a nice butt to look at. Other guys just wont acknowledge your existence and will drop in on you for no other reason then they think that they are better then you. But some people will yell “Go Girl, Go!”, just because they don’t know your name and they are stoked sharing good waves. 

  At the end of the day, if you let the crowd disturb your flow when you are surfing the only person who’s losing on it is yourself. Try to focus on yourself and the ocean, paddle to another peak or position yourself differently if that’s what needed for you to have a good surf.  

Q – Do you have any tips to overcome this feeling in the water? 

I know a few girls that don’t want to paddle out on certain points because they don’t want to be in the way and that they feel it can be a rough crowd. The good thing is that the ocean is pretty big and there are lots of spots and multiple peaks, if you aren’t feeling the vibe of one crowd you can always paddle somewhere else. Go where you feel comfortable and will have the most fun. 

I’m all for getting out there and claiming your spot, don’t be afraid to take up space. Depending on how comfortable you are in the surf adjust your position thereafter, but don’t be afraid to push your own limits. Most important thing is to paddle out with a smile, stick to the surf etiquette and you will probably find really good surf mates.  

Q – What’s one piece of advice for ladies out there thinking about surfing to make sure we have even more ladies in the line up? 

If you live close to a consistent surf break, get yourself a board. The biggest mistake you can make is buying a board that’s too small and when you are going to learn how to surf the bigger the board the better. Then try to get out there as much as you possibly can, no matter the conditions.  

If you don’t live close to a surf spot, pack your bags and go somewhere where that you will have the possibility to go surfing 2-3 times a day for at least 2 weeks. Also, get surf lessons, it is a lot easier and less frustrating then trying to reinvent the wheel on your own. Video analysis is gold, seeing yourself surf is the fastest way to learn and progress. 

I love surfing with good surfers, it pushes me to become better and try harder, I especially get super stoked when I see other girls ripping out in the surf! 

Meet Jessica Aiken, another kiwi lady who is just beginning her surfing journey and is seen below with mates on a recent surf trip in Sri Lanka.

  When not surfing, Jess works as a ski instructor in Japan, USA and NZ and she is currently studying towards her Masters of Development Studies in the University of Melbourne. Jess specialises in Gender studies so she is definitely qualified to comment on surfing and the patriarchy. She is also a rad adventurer so check out her answers below for a beginners perspective on being a lady in the line up. 

Q – local beach and your ideal day out surfing?  

My local beach is Papamoa Beach and I go out surfing during summer when I’m back home with my dad or any friends that are keen to have a go!  

Q - Do you ever have any issues with jumping in the water knowing you might be the only female out there? 

Yeah I think about it often and my friends and I chat about it, especially because I am still a beginner… the surf and surfers can be intimidating when you are just starting out and being the only female out there definitely adds to that! 

I’ve definitely found that I have a great ability to talk myself out of going in or not going out for very long if I’m by myself so I’ve been trying to get a group of friends to all learn together. It makes it so much more fun and you forget about taking yourself too seriously and just get out there and have a laugh.  

Q – What’s one piece of advice for ladies out there thinking about surfing to make sure we have even more ladies in the line up? 

Get your mates together! It’s so good having a group to learn with that are keen just to give it a go! Also try and get a surfer mate to come and give you some tips. Our friend spent several afternoons in the surf with us and it was super helpful (warning: they will laugh when you inevitably spend a whole hour nosediving). Do, it! It’s so much fun and such a great way to spend your summer! 


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