She’s advocating for more equality in the sport for female surfers.
Nestled in a cozy café in Hermosa Beach, California, professional surfer Morgan Sliff is just a few days shy of completing 1,000 consecutive days of surfing.
Over coffee and a veggie sandwich, she’s eager to share stories of the struggles and triumphs women face on the quest for “stoke” (a term surfers use to express their passion for the sport) — from the over-sexualized images of female surfers in magazines in an already male-dominated sport, to the unexpected strength that can be found within the sisterhood of female surfers.
She recalls a particular surf session in which her determination was tested when she was the only woman among dozens of men in the water.
“I look around and there are thirty guys out there, and I don’t see one girl,” she recalls. “Some guy starts paddling in front of me for a wave and I have priority, [but] he’s not even thinking that I can catch it because I’m a girl.”
She explains that she has found herself in that frustrating situation so many times that it hardly even bothers her anymore. Her advice for female surfers in the same spot?
“Expect to have to stand your ground, stand up for yourself, and demand respect,” she says.
Photo by Paul Roustan.
Despite the abundance of sexist advertisements in the surf industry and the handful of men who claim waves that are not their own, female surfers celebrate their place in the lineup. Rather than focusing on horror stories of gender inequality and mistreatment of women in the surf, Sliff reveals an uplifting theme in the surfing world: the sisterhood of female surfers.
She loves to see a lineup sprinkled with fellow strong, female surfers.
“You see girls out there [and] you feel the comradery, so it’s exciting to see them in the water, and to just look over and be like, ‘I got you, sister,’” says Sliff.
Even in the competitive division, rather than tearing down other female surfers, Sliff celebrates unique, feminine surf styles and hopes to soon see larger audiences at women’s competitions. “There are so many amazing, talented women surfers out there, and let’s face it, we all want to watch girls surf … Girls have this really beautiful fluidity,” she says.
In fact, Sliff fell in love with surfing after watching other women in the water. She named her grandmother, godmother, and the women from the movie “Blue Crush” as her biggest influences in surfing. As a child, she looked up to Keala Kennelly, Layne Beachley, Rochelle Ballard, and Kassia Meader, all of whom she describes as “really powerful women who inspired [her] from a young age.”
While at times it may seem as though a “no girls allowed” sign is planted on the shore, there is a wide-open opportunity to create a positive community of supportive, powerful women surfers in this male-dominated sport.
Sliff suggests female surfers look for other women out in the lineup and strike up a conversation. Perhaps hinting at our chat in the café, she adds with a smile: “A conversation never hurts.”