“Alana Blanchard is definitely likeable and of course beautiful. More importantly, for me at least, she surfs super-well and in big swell too but is she good for women’s surfing? I don’t know”
My initial response was “of course she’s good for surfing”, you’ve just said she’s an amazing surfer, likeable and beautiful. So why shouldn’t Alana Blanchard be good for women’s surfing?
It appears to boil down to what Sam says in her opening sentence: “the fact she has almost 550, 000 followers on Instagram is probably more to do with her looking smoking hot in a bikini”.
Which got me thinking… is Alana Blanchard good or bad for women’s surfing?
This time I’m not talking about Alana’s body, but her incredible exposure across social networks and more traditional media formats.
From a media perspective, Alana Blanchard is the face of female surfing. Her appearances in publications such as Sports Illustrated have propelled women’s surfing into mainstream media.
The female surfer market is small, and sponsors are few. To attract more investment from more sponsors, women’s surfing needs a wider audience. Alana’s adventures in both traditional and social media, have found a wider audience.
With the exception of Bethany Hamilton (who’s stats dwarf even Alana’s), no other female surfer comes close to having such a large audience.
Alana Blanchard is undeniably blessed with an ability to surf sensationally well.
She grew up in Hawaii, began surfing aged 4 and won numerous NSSA and pro competitions as a teen. Now in her early twenties Alana continues to compete against the top 17 women surfers in the world on the ASP tour.
Alana is unlikely to pose a significant challenge to World Champions Carissa Moore or Steph Gilmore any time soon, but she’s earned her position in the top flight.
Alana’s popularity is probably because of her bottom, not her bottom turns. Tetsuhiko Endo, surf editor at The Inertia, calls it the “most ogled ass in all professional sport”.
Whilst undoubtedly attracting a lot of attention, Alana’s enhancement of the ‘sexy surfer girl stereotype’ has negative side effects for women’s surfing:
• Weakens credibility – if Alana is the face of female surfing, but is more credible as a model than a surfer – it sends the message that looks are more important than ability in women’s surfing.
• Peer pressure – the ‘Alana look’ of sexy surfer girl has been successful for sponsors. So other women surfers looking for sponsorship, feel pressurized to swap the boardies for a bikini.
• Marginalization – not all female surfers fit the sexy surfer girl mould, those who don’t fit the mould get marginalized. This makes it tougher for some to get sponsorship, recognition and ultimately success.
• Reduces professional life – when your career is judged on how buff your body is, your commercial shelf life is reduced.
Is Alana Blanchard good or bad for women’s surfing?
Alana is a professional surfer and has given women’s surfing a wider audience. But the wider audience comes at a cost.
Is the cost too high? Yes, the success of women’s surfing should not be dependant on how you look in a bikini.
Should the cost be billed to Alana? No, Alana joins a long list of women surfers who have used modelling to enhance their careers, including 5 times world champion Steph Gilmore who appeared nude for ESPN’s body issue and 4 times World Champion Wendy Botha who appeared in Playboy.
I think, when considered as a cog in the women’s surfing machine, Alana is good for women’s surfing. Other essential cogs include the competitive Carissa Moore, the courageous Keala Kennelly and the inspirational Bethany Hamilton. When working together, performing their part in the women’s surfing machine, these amazing surfers can have a powerful influence over a very wide audience.
In my opinion it’s the sponsors and the ASP who have the most room for improvement and deserve the most criticism, not Alana Blanchard.
• ‘Carte Blanchard’ by Sam Haddad
• ‘Surfing and the Sexes – The social issues of gender and professional surfing’ by Scott Isaac
• ‘Why Women’s Surfing is in the Deep End’ by Clare Sullivan
• ‘(Surfing), Tits, and Ass’ by Tetsuhiko Endo
• ‘Surfer girls rock’ by Cynthia Krueger
What’s your opinion, do you think Alana is good or bad for women’s surfing? Please leave your comments below.