Colonial Surfer - STNC is a project about the contemporary globalized world and power structures within the surf industry and its realm. Surfing is not just a sport but also culture (producer and distributer). In current discussions you hear about the post colonial – but the situation today is better described as neo colonial. Surfers do travel a lot and somtimes to places unknown to other tourists. The way surfers behave and represent themselves in the adventures search of perfect waves has a lot in common with ancient colonizers and their roles. To surf maintain and conserve already existing structures. History.

STNC Editor: Kristoffer Svenberg

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Surfers are Queer


The movies, pictures, commercials and beaches of surfing are full of well-trained male bodies. It's also common with male nude torsos that meet in grabbing arms and encouraging hugs or intimate handshakes. To imagine and view surfing as a homoerotic culture is easy since it's mostly about men who socialize primarily with other men.

It's obvious that contemporary surfing is a sport that is dominated and leads by a larger number of white men. And there are clear differences in how men and women do get represented in pictures. If you do an Internet search for images on the word surfer, and then categorize them, the point is clear.
In the photos of male surfers, which are the most, there are a lot more focus on performance, muscles and the activity. For sure there are also some women heroines in this sport. For example female surfers deep in tubes on large massive waves such as legendary Teahupoo in Tahiti. There are a lot of really great women surfers. But the most of the pictures on girls do rather focus in other ways.

In the surf-films that are produced for inspiration (porn), there are sometimes sequences of women that get cut in during ongoing movie streams of male heroic surfers and their bodies in ongoing activities. A focus on how those women are surfing waves is rare. Instead it is quite common with images that are filmed in secret from spying perspectives. Images that often are zoom views on girls breast and butts in bikini. 
And this is an ugly abuse, since those girls get filmed when they have no clue about that they are getting captured, or know about their upcoming appearance in those films. Images that are edited in to the screenplay in such a rude way that you do get to wonder about how things are? What is this really about? Although these images are highly doubtful and wrong to spread further they are in movies sponsored by large multinational surf companies.

- Look at us! We are surfers bonding with other guys, but we are definitely heterosexual men. Don’t think about us as gays. Cause we do have evidences!

Another speaking example in the same line is the far-reaching campaign that has been going on for several years by the shoe and clothing brand reef. In the marketing they have been sending out large quantities of powerful images on male surfers in spectacular or ideal positions on great waves. In those commercial pics there are cut out and edited images on girls next to the men. In those pictures the surfers names and autographs are written in proud ways. And the women's names are written as well. But the only thing we see of the women is their backside. They don’t even twist their head so we can see their eyes or faces. Present in the images are their butts. Pictures on fit, shaped naked asses. Alongside with the men on the waves this is the women performance.

The title of this post is: Surfers are queer. When I say queer I refer to a queer theoretical perspective on identity and gender that some how explains that those roles are made up as constructions. For example in such a way as the famous theorist Judith Butler is focusing on sexuality as a cultural construction. This is then in a perspective on how our gender-roles relate to each other in forming (performative) matters. The surfing culture and its roles are created by how individuals mimic and imitate each other, as well as how surfers get influenced by the sport's repeating commercials, marketing and else.

A queer theory perspective is about that identity and gender is an act that has to be rehearsed, much like a script, and we as the surfers/actors make this script a reality over and over again by performing these actions. From this point of view, with a focus on those parameters you can clearly say that the surf-culture, in repetition and by how it is constructed in obvious ways is something that is about acting.

“Life does not come with a script, so quit acting.”; is written as a tagline on a surfers twitter account STNC follows. The point in this text is rather that life certainly comes with scripts. Those scripts are sometimes forced in to our behavior by ideals and social norms. I would like to say that it is rather about changing those scripts for how we play, than stop playing. Since we are all playing and there is no essential true way. 

A good change for the surf culture would be about creating room for a greater diversity and generate a more inclusive, welcoming and equal culture. Right now the surf culture is a dominant, strongly normative, hetero normative and a white male culture. This is a very narrow construction.