The Environment

Why Aren’t More Female Surfers Standing Up For The Environment?

Plenty of surfers are campaigning for environmental change - but where are all the women?

Photo: Surfers Against Sewage

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Global Wave Conference. It covered everything from conservation to health, economics to oceanography – with speakers including big name surfers Greg Long, Tom Curren and Ramon Navarro.

However, I found one fundamental element was missing from this unique collection of voices – women.

While the conference audience was roughly an even mix of men and women – there were 40 male speakers and only four women. Just four.

Photo: Ocean Health Index

These female speakers were great nonetheless: Easkey Britton, the fearless Irish big wave surfer not to mention writer, entrepreneur, doctor and advocate of women’s rights.

Alyx Elliot, the UK leader of the World Animal Protection‘s campaign to tackle discarded fishing gear in the ocean.

Dr Heather Koldewey, head of global conservation at the Zoological Society of London.

Lucy Seigel, the environmental journalist, columnist and TV presenter.

Photo: Zak Noyles

All of these women spoke very well on their chosen topics. Lucy Siegel wants to see environmental issues an integrated part of mainstream culture. We should be discussing ocean acidification on Loose Women, for example.

Easkey was pioneering a movement called Waves Of Freedom, which uses surfing as a medium for social change.

However, this imbalance of male against female representation sparked something in me. Not anger, frustration or even disappointment. It simply made me curious.

Are there more women out there who specialise in surfing and the environment? Perhaps there are more women interested in theses causes than we might think. But if so, where are they?

Is there something stopping these women from sharing their projects or discoveries? Do they just need extra support?


Eco surf goddesses do exist. They are adding to this conversation in their own way from surf explorer Liz Clark to Holly Beck, Lauren Hill and Belinda Baggs.

These are the women that inspire me and encourage me to be a better surfer and a better human.

It’s about how much joy can you experience on a single fin log whilst wearing organic sunscreen, how much peace you can find sailing solitary around the world, how empowering it is to make your own hut in the jungle. They remind me just how lightly you can tread.

Photo: Surfers Against Sewage

I am super passionate about closing the gap between surfing and sustainability. I see surfing as the first step to being an ocean activist.

By exposing ourselves to what is happening in the sea, it’s only a matter of time before you choose to do something positive about it – whether it is protecting your local break, taking part in a beach clean or changing your habits to become more environmentally conscious.

So I want to reach out to other women who are surfers, teachers, leaders, experts, volunteers and students.

I want to encourage you to show others what you have learnt, to share your passion and your projects, your questions, struggles and your results – whether it’s success or failure, – because I want to be sure we’re all in this together. Not 40 to 4, but 50/50.

Photo: Patagonia

I hope that the women who are part of this movement continue to tread light and shine bright, but will also speak up and represent a greater proportion of experts in the future.

I ask that 2015 be the beginning, the starting point for women having a voice at the Global Wave Conference and at the next meeting in 2017 that number trebles.

To quote Greg Long in his key note speech: “What the outstanding person does, others will try and do, and the standards such people create will be followed by the world,” so let’s follow Easkey, Lucy, Heather and Alyx and get this conversation flowing.

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