The 4th Annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit was held from October 9-11 at St. Regis in Dana Point, California, and saw the top sports leaders and elite female athletes come together for three days of inspirational speeches, presentations, discussiona and activities all geared to advance the dialogue around women in sports and to create positive change. Four time Women’s World Champion, Lisa Andersen, attended the event held at Monarch Beach to represent female surfing.
As an icon and leader in the sport, Anderson took some time with The Surf Channel’s Editor-In-Chief, Shannon Quirk, to reflect on the challenges of being a woman in the industry and to recognize the exciting improvements occurring in the ASP WCT 2014 season for female athletes.
The Surf Channel: What are some of the challenges for a woman in the surf industry?
Lisa Andersen: If you look at the media coverage and surfing magazines, the one thing that really stands out is how hard it is to find a photo of a girl in a magazine unless it’s an ad. It’s kind of strange, still to this day. You see these great looking girls surfing so well that are amazingly talented… They are finally the total package.
When you present female surfing to a big corporate company, it sounds like, ‘Here, we have the most beautiful, talented surfers in the world of all time right here and there are a dozen of them. Choose whoever you want to represent. They are great, they work hard, they surf well, they are trained professionals,’ yet you don’t see them in the surfing media. It trips me out. I don’t understand it.
Any ideas on how we can bring more equality to female surfing?
Andersen: It would be kind of cool to do more profiles on girls. Obviously, they do a lot of social media. It’s pretty crazy how Instagram has taken over the world… They [female surfers] do a pretty good job of getting themselves exposure. They can be photographed, and they are gorgeous. However, I think people may want to see them in a more tasteful way, such as with nice profile pictures or some kind of article featuring them and telling their story.
I remember Gabby Reece [pro volleyball player and wife to Laird Hamilton] saying something about that earlier this morning, that everyone has stories to tell. That is how you are going to grab people’s attention to find out who these girls are. They are pretty young so they may not have too many stories yet, but they will for sure. They travel the world.
Being an Event Director must be stressful, especially when few women have that position.
Andersen: I think that ‘Event Director’ is more of a title than a job. I have a lot of help and people on site telling me our options, and then I choose the best option. It is easy, but it is also stressful. Obviously, when you are in Europe you have the challenge of tide change and no surf, trying to keep moral up and I am more of a liaison between the girls and the administration board. I think that I am easily approachable compared to some French dude running the event, because the girls are like, ‘that guy is scary.’ It makes it easier for them because I can just hang out and talk, and I can get an idea or a sense of what they are feeling, if they want to surf or not, and then I can relay that to the officials and make a plan. It’s been great to be that person for them, because I have been there before and I know exactly what they are thinking.
We had a situation in the last event, where we had to put the event on hold real quick because the tide got too low and the next heat was ready to paddle out. I had to make the decision right then to stop it or not. I made the call and ran down to stop one of the girls from paddling out ,and it was LeAnn Curren and Coco Ho’s heat. LeAnn said, “I’m going!” Then Coco was like, “uhmm.” So there, I had two different opinions which made it kind of tough. I had to use the advice that the conditions might get better, so it worked out to one girl’s advantage and not the other. I think that I stole the mojo of one girl and the other girl got what she wanted.
It was a tough position to be in, but at the same time I tried to put myself in their shoes. I was probably more with LeAnn in my head. I would have wanted to go, because they had waited all morning to surf, so that was tough. Yet, I was glad that I was there, because I think the girls are more comfortable with me by their side.
Have you heard anything about Cloudbreak being added to the Women’s Championship Tour?
Andersen: As far as I know, that’s just talk. I think they are still in the process of bringing events onto the tour. ASP is starting a whole new year, taking over all of the events and adding new events for the girls. So I’m not really sure which events are on there or not, but I do know that there are a few new ones yet to be determined. Definitely Lowers, so I’m going to be sniffing out the wildcard for that one [laughs].
With ZoSea taking over the ASP World Championship Tour, they have promised to pay women more prize money then ever before. What would that mean for women to finally be making close or equal to the men, if it happens?
Andersen: It would be great! I don’t think that the prize money has changed for several years. What is it, around $12,000 or $8,000 for first place? [Last place for a men’s event is $8,000]. I understand both sides. I understand that we are doing the exact same things [as men], the same elements, the same rules, the same everything, just there are less girls competing…
I think they deserve more money, for sure, why not? Tell me one reason why not, and I will give you a million reasons why.