While women have been riding waves for generations, the number of women surfers has soared in recent years and they aren’t just hanging ten, they are hanging tenaciously, carving up the surf scene with style, skill, and grace.
Written by Alison Bone
While surfing has always been a quintessential part of Australian coastal culture, the days when the line-up was just a sea of blokes in board shorts are long gone. The growth of women's surfing in recent years has been phenomenal, with more and more women taking up the sport, according to Surfing Australia. Women are also pushing the boundaries of what was once thought possible for female surfers, redefining the sport by proving that style and grace can coexist with power and skill. Take the Northern Rivers’ own, two-times World Champion, Tyler Wright, and record holding eight-times World Champion Stephanie Gilmore, both of whom have used their voices to push for surfing to be more inclusive and progressive. A passionate advocate for empowering women through surfing, Gilmore helped lead the way to the WSL’s announcement of equal prize money on the professional circuit in 2018.
“Top female surfers have made it fairer and more commonplace for women on the surfing scene, especially for young girls who look up to those pro female surfers,” says Kirsten Tremlett, who hosts Women’s Surf and Yoga retreats in Byron Bay. “I think it’s great that there's a lot more females feeling confident about being out there with the guys, as it is still a very male-dominated domain.”
The surf industry has also opened its doors wider, with more female focused brands, sponsors, competitions, and opportunities than ever before. In June 2023, Kingscliff hosted Surfing Australia’s inaugural Seas the Day Festival, the world’s biggest female participation surf festival, which saw 200 women and girls competing in a tag team contest. Taking place over two days, a crowd of 12,000 gathered to join in free activities, workshops and inspirational talks led by females in the industry. Describing the showcase of women’s surfing as “light years away from the era” she grew up in, Sally Miller, team manager for Byron Bay Boardriders at the event says, “When I was growing up in Kiama, I would have loved to have so many girls to surf with. Girls were always accepted by the local surfing community but not celebrated, and it was amazing to have the opportunity to share the experience and supportive space within the community.”
“Women are finally finding a place in the line-up they feel comfortable with,” adds Belén Alvarez Kimble, Director of Salty Girls Surf School who believes that surfing has become much more accessible for women, with everything fromwax to wetsuits and surfboards, now catered for the female surfer. Belén, who created the Cabarita-based surf school in 2008, is just as passionate about creating opportunities for women as she is about surfing. “I love seeing women jumping in a lesson because they have always wanted to, but never felt comfortable – or it was just never the right time in their lives; so they get to tick something from their bucket list.” Her thoughts on the local women’s surf scene? “We are water people in the Northern Rivers, and women surfers here have a very gentle soft way about them; a lot of women love surfing Cabarita because it’s a gentle wave and very conducive to that style.” She adds, “Because we're a smaller coastal community, everyone kind of knows everybody and we’re just having fun, and not having to deal with the bigger crowds at some of the point breaks up and down the coast. I think too, in general, when women are in the water together there’s always a beautiful energy. We’re not quiet and grumpy, we bring out the fun and the giggling and the joy, rather than the seriousness of it.”
Always a surf mecca, the Northern Rivers is home to women-focussed surf brands, surf schools and retreats, where women and girls of all ages and skill levels can find top-notch coaching and a fun, supportive and empowering environment.
Salty Girls Surf School
“I love giving women the opportunity to get out of their comfort zone, to overcome adversity and challenge themselves,” says Director Belén Alvarez Kimble. Based on the Tweed Coast, Salty Girls is a one stop set up for everything from group and private surf lessons to Ocean Women Workshops, Surf Clinics, and Surf Holiday Camps.
Byron Wellbeing Retreats
“Personalised Women’s Surf and Yoga Retreats are designed to encourage ladies who have wanted to surf but haven't had the opportunity to learn in a safe, supportive environment,” says founder Kirsten Tremlett. Retreats can be customised and include daily surf lessons, yoga and meditation, massages, and delicious vegetarian food.
Designed by women, for women, Surf Getaways combine professional surf coaching with a luxury stay at Crystalbrook Byron Bay. Personalised Surf Clinics are also offered in Lennox Head.
Seas the Day 2024
Seas the Day Surf Festival 2024 promises to be even bigger than the debut 2023 event, with an expanded festival program and an incredible line up of guest speakers. Dates are yet to be announced, so watch this space! For more info, or to get involved email email@example.com
From comfortable and functional wet suits, to bikinis, après surf wear and a cool groms collection, this independent Byron-based women’s surf label has everything you need to get geared up for the waves.