As we cast our eye back to 2021’s eventful and powerfully charged run of events and happenings in women’s surfing, it feels like 2020’s fallow year gave way to an incredible year of achievement, energy and creative expression. Powerful icons within surfing celebrated stunning achievements, cementing their rightful places within surf lore and history, surfing took centre stage in the hotly contested Tokyo Olympics and 2020’s poignant social commentaries galvanised the surfing industry. We dissect and pinpoint the key happenings in women’s surfing in 2021…
JUSTINE DU PONT SLAYING GIANTS
If one woman deservedly has not just owned 2021 but signed, sealed and delivered it with the incredible athleticism and aplomb only an athlete of her calabre could, it’s Gallic powerhouse Justine Dupont. At the time of writing Justine has just been crowned the queen of Nazaré for the second year running winning “Women’s Best Performance” at the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge after a nail-biting competition that nearly saw competitor Brazilian chargers Maya Gabeira and Michelle des Bouillons take the win following an interference call. The second trophy at Nazaré for Justine wraps up an astonishing year for the water-woman extraordinaire, who after publicly challenging the WSL’s contentious decision not to award her the XXL Big Wave Award in 2020, saw her kick off the 2021 season with a veritable bang in Hawaii. The swell of the season kicked up at opportunity for Justine to bag an enormous barrel at Jaws on January 16th, a mind-boggling performance on a Maui behemoth that heralded the start of an extraordinary year for the French woman. Fast forward to the 2021 Red Bull Big Wave Awards and deservedly so Justine bagged Ride of the Year, Performer of the Year and the Biggest Tow award for that wave at Jaws. Vive la France.
Ryan Miller / Red Bull
CARISSA MOORE, THE OLYMPICS AND THE EXPLOSION OF MAINSTREAM SURFING
Debate and curiosity reached fever pitch in the run up to the debut of surfing in the Tokyo Summer Olympics of 2021. Would this be the final nail in the coffin for the counter-culture spirit of surfing? Would it actually catapult our cherished sport to new levels, and with better financial support thanks to worldwide screening? The Japanese put on a solid show, and with palpable excitement from the competitors (check out Italo Ferreiro’s backflip off the gold medal podium) and incredible performances in average conditions, the Olympics clearly belonged to one woman: Carissa Moore. Coupling her much deserved Olympic Gold with a 5th World title shortly after, the ever-humble and gracious Moore proved the perfect Ambassador for surfing’s entry into the mainstream. At the same time, the participation of women’s surfing has exploded on unprecedented levels, and whereas in years back counting a fellow chick in the lineup was as likely as seeing a dodo, head to most lineups now and girls are solidly ruling the roost. Is this down to the magnetism of mainstream icons like Carissa, or the steadily mushrooming grassroots collectives of female surfers around the world? With women’s surfing growing organically and solidly in recent years, the summer of 2021 proved to be another catalyzing time to inspire younger grommets around the world. But the grassroots networks of female surfers developing globally had already been reaching incredible heights. With global meet up crews like Newquay’s Women and Waves reaching 1000’s of women, a mind-blowing wave pool scene of air-taking groms like Erin Brooks blowing up, and diverse and varied icons emerging, the backbone of grassroots surfing has proved the true powerful boost to female participation in surf.
A WIDER PICTURE
Where 2020’s much needed developments around diversity and namely the lack thereof within the surfing industry firmly put the issue on the table, moving into 2021 we have thankfully seen not just the explosion of diverse talents and icons, who after grafting the hard way, have finally been incurring the support they deserve from surf brands and businesses globally. When we caught up with Hawaii based, Afro-Latina surfer Nique Miller in a poignant and honest discussion in Finally Home for Vol.260, she offered a candid discussion in the challenges she has faced as a woman of colour within the surf industry, and how the powerful wake-up call delivered by the Black Lives Matter movement also catalyzed the surf industry to make much needed changes. Where in yesteryears we have typically been presented with a cookie-cutter image of a woman who surfs (skinny. Blond. White), we are now presented with a thrillingly diverse crop of talents, from big wave surfers like Keala Kennelly proudly flying the flag for the LGBTQ community, lady loggers like Flora Christin squashing stereotypes, and expressive free surfers like Chelsea Woody harnessing the power of community with Textured Waves and inspiring legions of women of colour and girls around the world.
Cover photo: Fred Pompermayer / Red Bull