Women surfers in Malaga, Spain – The group of female surfers grows progressively, although it still detects a different treatment with respect to men when it comes to practicing sport or competing
Ana Teresa Fischer and Silvia San Laureano have a lot in common. Both were born in Malaga, they are a pure example of entrepreneurship, and they give off, at every step, calm and serenity. But their similarities go much further. San Laureano and Fischer have been part of the Malaga surfers collective since they can remember, they have focused and dedicated their lives to this sport, and they have shown that enjoying on a board is something that does not understand gender or limitations. They were in the water when practically no other women were around them…
Women surfers in Malaga, Spain
The difference between the number of male and female surfers has always pointed to a considerable decompensation. The disproportion has been, for years, even more noticeable in Malaga, where the culture of surfing has been slow to take root.
As with many other sports, surfing has been associated with the male gender for decades. But it seems that the situation is beginning to change and the number of girls who now row at full throttle (at least on the beaches of Malaga), is increasing progressively.
And, what is the reason for the change?
The surfers agree. “To begin with, before in Malaga you couldn’t find tables for men or women. You had to call stores in northern Spain and you didn’t even know what they were going to send you, ”explains Fischer, who was together with Pepa Almoguera, one of the first women to surf in the Mediterranean, according to the writer Daniel Esparza in the book ‘Málaga Surf. History of Surf and Body Board (1970-2000) ’.
The lack of material on the Costa del Sol was even more alarming when it came to them, and not about them. “Finding a suit in my size ten years ago was very difficult.” “The stores were generally unaware of the size of the girls’ suits. Women’s sizes existed, but the stores didn’t ask for them because there were no girls in the water. To find something suitable, I had to go to Portugal ”, says San Laureano, who at 33 years of age has spent more than a fortnight surfing.
Sponsoring and the wide range of material: the keys to change
Now, according to the interviewees, brands of women’s equipment abound and sports advertising has become something also attractive for them.
Even so, the differences between the treatment that male and female surfers receive are still quite remarkable.
Although looking for a suit for them is no longer an impossible mission, surfing, as a sport “continues to be associated with men, and maintains the image of a somewhat sexualized woman,” explains San Laureano. The surfer perceives: “from the beginning, in terms of surfing, the men appeared in action ads, they were sunbathing. Currently that continues to happen ”.
And the thing is that if there is something that they cannot understand, it is the image of the girls claimed by the brands and sponsors. “Although it is about sport, brands pay more to those who model than to those who compete,” says San Laureano with some misunderstanding.
Other opinions in the online world and the media closely support their confusion. Former surfer Rebeca Woods, for example, publicly announced in the Australian media abc.net that she felt pressured to wear a bikini in competitions to keep her ‘sponsors’ and to continue surfing at a professional level.
Same category, different awards
Until just a year ago, the disparity between the accolades of opposite-sex professional surfing competitors was literally exaggerated.
The disproportion (for many unjustified), could reach exorbitant differences. At the 2018 ‘Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach’ circuit, according to official data from the World Surfing League (WSL), the winner of the men’s category received a payment of $ 100,000, while the winner among the women received a payment of $ 65,000.
This is something that the 54-year-old Fischer lived with the few surfers who ripped the waves of his generation.
“The boys were awarded with boards, the girls with bikinis and T-shirts,” he explains, recalling the competitions of decades ago.
Just a year ago, the WSL, highly pressured by the collective that fights for equality, has decided to start fighting the situation, a challenge for which the policy has changed to promote equity between the prizes of the female and male categories.
However, the issue continues to generate controversy.
On the one hand, the obvious difference in the value of the prizes awarded contributes nothing to the fight for the inclusion of women in all social settings and especially in sport. On the other hand, depending on what event and also according to what time, the decompensation could be understood, since according to some points of view, it would not be entirely fair to give the same prize to a participant who has competed with dozens of rivals, as to a girl who , due to lack of participants, he simply had to win a final.
Experiences (of them) in the water
Fischer started surfing more than 30 years ago. At that time, she does not remember any partner with whom to share her sport.
At her side, her brother and his friends, who, according to her account, respected and encouraged her at all times while she practiced what she has always understood as her passion. “The boys were used to seeing me in the water.”
Fischer was a Windsurf champion in Andalusia for several years, so as she points out, they have always associated her figure “with the world of the sea”.
For the girls, however, seeing her paddle waves whenever the tide allowed it, was not something that went unnoticed. “For my friends it was a little weirder. They said they saw me as brave for being in the water, but as a personal challenge, they were not attracted to anything, ”explains Fischer.
According to account, sometimes, yes that has noticed preferences, but never discrimination. “In the world of surfing there are‘ localisms ’. This means that the locals of a site do not let other surfers practice at the best points. My brother and his friends had access to these restricted points. I, being a woman, had it much easier. I could surf wherever I wanted quietly ”, she says.
Like these advantages, as a regular surfer she has also had other not so positive experiences. “If it is true that some men take for granted that because you are a woman you surf badly. Sometimes the waves jump at you, or flip you over. When they know you, things change, and they respect you a lot ”.
For San Laureano, the scale also brings more benefits. “The positive experiences are many more, but the negative ones impact, and you stay there,” he explains.
Although she feels fully integrated into the entire surfing community, on occasion, she has come across some archaic comment, somewhat out of place. “Some time they have told me to get out of the water, that it is not a place for girls. They have even told me that I should be at home scrubbing, ironing or cooking… ”.
Like Fischer, San Laureano has also had a wave ‘stolen’ from him. And it is that surfing has its rules, and depending on the position and the waiting time, the wave belongs to one or another person. “Some men have jumped waves at me thinking that with their pressure I might give up and let it pass. Before it happened to me, not anymore. Now, if he also rows, we both hit it ”, he points out with humor.
Ana Teresa Fischer, of a Swiss father and a Spanish mother, was born and raised in Malaga, beginning to surf in the midst of adolescence driven by her brother.
Physical exercise always caught her attention, which led her to win numerous Windsurfing championships (a sport that she practiced since she was 12 years old) before surfing crossed her life.
Surfing, he says, allows him to get moments of total connection with nature. “There is a moment when you paddle, catch a wave, and you can only be focused on yourself, your body, your board and the water.” It is a total connection between nature and you. I think it’s just that moment that hooks you so much ”.
With patience and unquestionable charisma, Fischer feels like a person of the sea, a place that, as he confesses, he cannot spend a single day without at least appreciating with his eyes.
After studying Management Secretariat at the University of Navarra, she decided to take over the command of her mother’s shop, ‘Top Surf’, always located in the province of Malaga and, initially, focused on Windsuf.
With her in charge, ‘Top Surf’ quickly became the first store in Malaga with surf equipment, always in accordance with impeccable aesthetics.
At that time, Fischer was not only one of the (very) few surfers from Malaga, but she was also the owner of the first business in the entire province of Malaga focused on water sports.
Over the years ‘Top Surf’ reached a deserved expansion in the municipality of Fuengirola and, for several decades, it was the reference store for lovers not only of windsurfing and surfing, but also skateboarding.
Fischer currently works as a yoga teacher in the most prestigious spaces in Malaga. The discipline, he says, “is closely related to surfing.”
Five years ago, faithful to her entrepreneurial spirit, she set up her latest business: ‘E-Swiss, yoga and beach’ (www.eswiss.es). This focuses on the sale of yoga equipment and accessories and beach accessories, all of them made with materials that are committed to the environment.
About San Laureano
San Laureano grew up in an “adventurous, mountain and sea family, but not of surfers”.
Since she was a child, she remembers having “a very strong bond with the sea”, which she emphasizes not knowing how to describe.
Surfing for her “is a way of life” and the ocean, her environment.
She sees no limits in her sport. “Surfing for me does not understand sex or age. Whatever you are, the waves will always have a place for you ”, he says.
And her passion is understandable. San Laureano promises to have surfed with whales during her time in Australia, to have seen dolphins in the same wave, to have rubbed shoulders with seals, turtles and mantas … She remembers countless sunrises drawn on a canvas and destroyed by wild storms thatAfter a day of waves, she explains, she manages to get “a feeling of fullness.”
For this reason, after studying Engineering and Industrial Design at the University of Malaga, she decided to move to Australia, expanding her knowledge thanks to the specialization in the physics of the ocean and coasts.
Throughout her professional career, she has worked as a surf teacher in several schools around the world, offering classes to both adults and children, with and without functional diversity.
For years, she worked at a local Australian City Council, always pursuing one goal: “to maintain natural resources for prosperity.”
She currently works for her own brand and surf travel agency, ‘The Ocean Spell’ (www.theoceanspell.com), which has been operating for years offering experiences and trips to the best destinations in the world of surfing.
Why women surfers from Malaga surf
And like Fischer and San Laureano, many other women are attracted to a sport that, they say, “hooks right from the start.”
Specifically in Malaga, the group of female surfers is still a minority, but little by little, it expands not only in numbers, but also in diversity. If before in the water it was only possible to see one or two girls among a large crowd of boys, now, on a day in which the waves accompany, it is possible to see almost twenty women of all ages and cultures.
Among them is Arancha Soto, 48, who assures that surfing “is something complicated but not impossible.” He owes good friendships and incomparable experiences to this sport, which he has been practicing for about four years, for which he encourages people, whatever their genre, to live and experience surfing in the first person.
The smallest ones do miss more company. “I wish there were more girls my age surfing,” explains Daniela Luna, 12. Next to her is Esther Cadenas, 13, who assures that surfing is her life. And she explains: “I realize that when I get in the water there are only boys and I also wish there were more girls with us”. His sister, Julieta Cadenas, 8 years old, says that she loves surfing and despite her young age, she already defines the sport that has conquered her as a real personal “challenge”.
Teenage girls stomp and understand little about fear. This is the case of Paola Albacete who with only 14 years has managed to position herself as the best surfer in the Andalusian ranking. “When I’m in the water I feel free,” he explains.
Among other merits, the Malaga-born Pía Bru has conquered the front pages of local newspapers with great images breaking waves; María Ruíz, supported by the Malaga board brand MSK, says that surfing has helped her in her personal life; Alicia Gil defines sport as her life; Joanna Ríos, conceives it as “an escape route”; Ruth de la Lama sees it as “a way of life”.
For her part, María Charters considers it vitally important to “support women and girls who are surfing strong”, a vision she shares with Natalie Batt, who says she perceives that there are more and more girls in sport but does not consider that respect the same. “We have to fight so that more attention is paid to us,” she explains.
For Patricia Truncer, also from Malaga, surfing helped her overcome her fears, and both she and Luna Márquez are pleased to know that the “family of surfer girls continues to grow”.
Some, like María Cuenca, have changed course out of pure devotion. It is not a question of work or money, but of waves. “Since I started surfing, it became one of the most important things in my life,” explains the surfer who moved to Fuerteventura to be able to surf daily. “Surfing is so important to me that I can no longer imagine living in a place where there is no possibility of surfing,” he declares.
As far as testimonials are concerned, they all agree: surfing is passion, health and fun. Together, they try to take their philosophy to the water, rather than adopt the (sometimes imposed) way of acting of the men’s union. They claim to be less competitive than them. And at the end of the day, as Fischer points out, the philosophy of surfing, rather than competing, only encourages “enjoying the sea, the environment and the people, as long as they are in accordance with you”.
It is precisely to achieve that agreement that the Malaga surfing community reveals itself and raises its voice. Between all of them they already form a great tide …