Birdwell Blog

She Surf by Lauren L. Hill
Dazzling Blue #130

Awash in vibrant photos and interesting, unexpected profiles and essays, She Surf is a celebration of women’s surfing. Written and edited by pro surfer Lauren L. Hill, the majority of the book focuses on the present day, though there’s plenty about the history and heritage, like the excerpt below. Originally from Florida, Lauren lives in northern New South Wales Australia with her partner, Dave Rastovich, and their son, Minoa. We connected via email.



 

What compelled you to write your book?

I wanted to celebrate women’s surfing, past and present, and drop the comparative lens that prevails when it comes to telling the stories of women surfing. It’s still very rare to see women on the cover of mainstream surf mags, and historical coverage is also quite rare, so I've tried to create an accessible place to remind women and girls that surfing is theirs, too. 

 


What was the most surprising thing you encountered, either in the interview process or the actual writing?

I was most surprised by the breadth and depth of stories from the women’s surfing community. In planning for the book, I started with profiles on 130 women and had to narrow down to just 26 to keep it readable. There are just so many wonderful stories that deserve to be shared. 



What made you choose the excerpt below?

I like stories that show and tell that women riding waves is nothing new—that we’ve been right beside our surfing brothers since the first kids dragged fragments of coconut palm into the ocean and realized it was absurdly fun. 

Irreversible Bikini

From Agatha to Alana: a glimpse at the complicated relationship between surfing, hypersexualization, & surf apparel 

 

Surfing’s first documented wardrobe malfunction may be attributed to an unlikely candidate: the world’s best-selling novelist, Agatha Christie. The English queen of mystery fiction, outsold only by Shakespeare and The Bible, also happened to be a keen surfer. In 1920, Agatha set off on an around the world adventure of the British Empire’s colonies. In South Africa she learned to surf prone, and in Hawaii became one of the first Britons to experience stand-up surfing. In Agatha’s letters published in The Grand Tour, she recalls: 

 

“The second time I took the water, a catastrophe occurred. My handsome silk bathing dress, covering me from shoulder to ankle was more or less torn from me by the force of the waves. Almost nude, I made for my beach wrap. I had immediately to visit the hotel shop and provide myself with a wonderful, skimpy, emerald green wool bathing dress, which was the joy of my life, and in which I thought I looked remarkably well.”

 

"…It was heaven. Nothing like it. Nothing like that rushing through the water at what seems to you a speed of about two hundred miles an hour…until you arrived, gently slowing down, on the beach, and foundered among the soft flowing waves. It is one of the most perfect physical pleasures that I have known."

 

Agatha was humbled in the way that all subsequent women have been in the surf—betrayed by surfing attire. Her “skimpy bathing dress” is modest by modern standards, related only tangentially to the modern bikini—one of the most emotionally evocative articles of clothing. 

 

In 1946, French designer Louis Réard launched his boldest experiment: a revealing two-piece swimming ensemble. Inspired by the explosive impact of post-war nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific, Réard named the four strategically placed triangles of fabric le Bikini. Prior to this point, the navel had been considered too racy to reveal. As detailed by The History Channel, “In prudish America, the bikini was successfully resisted until the early 1960s. It was immortalized by the pop singer Brian Hyland, who sang “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” in 1960, by the teenage “beach blanket” movies of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, and by the California surfing culture celebrated by rock groups like the Beach Boys.”

 

As novel and exciting as the bikini was for the 20th century, Ancient Roman apparel predated the “invention” by about 1700 years. Female athletes there wore strapless bandeau tops and briefs, as depicted in the mosaic Sala delle Dieci Ragazze in Italy. Then and now, the bikini allowed women the freedom of a full range of movement in athletic pursuit. The modern bikini also amplifies the sensuality of riding waves...

 

Excerpted from She Surf: The Rise of Female Surfing by Lauren L. Hill, gestalten, 2020
















For more Lauren L. Hill go to -- @theseakin @waterpeoplepodcast

Buy She Surfs HERE.

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