Meet The 13-Year-Old Female Surfer’s Who’s Taking On Sexism In The Sport

Olive Bowers's open letter has gone viral...


by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

Female surfers might have been a reality for decades, long before Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez starred in that seminal of surf films, Blue Crush. But that hasn’t stopped Australian surf magazine Tracks from consistently portraying women in the sport as only ‘valued for their appearance’, according to one 13-year-old.

Olive Bowers, a keen surfer, wrote an open letter to the magazine’s editor, Luke Kennedy, which has since gone viral. It reads:

‘Dear Tracks Surf Magazine,

I want to bluntly address the way you represent women in your magazine. I am a surfer, my dad surfs and my brother has just started surfing. Reading a Tracks magazine I found at my friend’s holiday house, the only photo of a woman I could find was “Girl of the month’’. She wasn’t surfing or even remotely near a beach. Since then I have seen some footage of Stephanie Gilmore surfing on your website, but that’s barely a start.

I clicked on your web page titled “Girls” hoping I might find some women surfers and what they were up to, but it entered into pages and pages of semi-naked, non-surfing girls. These images create a culture in which boys, men and even girls reading your magazine will think that all girls are valued for is their appearance.

My posse of female surfers and I are going to spread the word and refuse to purchase or promote Tracks magazine. It’s a shame that you can’t see the benefits of an inclusive surf culture that in fact, would add a whole lot of numbers to your subscription list.

I urge you to give much more coverage to the exciting women surfers out there, not just scantily clad women (who may be great on the waves, but we’ll never know). I would subscribe to your magazine if only I felt that women were valued as athletes instead of dolls. This change would only bring good.


Pretty smart, right? The editor has tried to defend himself by saying the reason why they don’t try to represent female surfers is because ‘obviously [obviously!] they are not our primary audience. We have written extensively about female surfers in the past.’ But his response hasn’t exactly gone down well.

And fair enough, because while we’re not incredible surfers – we tried and failed way back in Newquay in 2004 while on a post-GCSE booze-up holiday, grazing our knees and elbows and swallowing a lot of Cornish seawater in the process – we can’t imagine how these photos actually have anything to do with surfing.


Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Picture: Getty

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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