How Surfing Made Me a Better Mom

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Surfing and being a mom are two unrelated activities. While they aren’t really related, I realize I have learned a lot about being a mom from surfing.

Surfing is very much dependent upon Mother Nature. Her mood sets the tone for the waves. They range from calm and peaceful to turbulent and violent. My daughter Dominique has moods that can swing in much the same way. Some days she is sweet and charming other days, she is not. But the beauty with Mother Nature and with teens, there is a time and place for all moods. The violent waves will eventually subside in the same way the “I hate you moments” do. Eventually things will be calm and peaceful, even if it is just for a moment.

In the lineup you have to sit and wait for the next set of waves. In the moments you wait, you have to be patient. If you rush and paddle for something that isn’t a wave it can put you in the wrong spot when the real waves to come. As a mom I need patience too. Dominique acts like she isn’t interested in anything, she ignores pleas to do her homework, she forgets to do her chores, she has a messy room, she doesn’t always listen, she thinks she knows everything, she gets frustrated when we talk, she gets a D in chemistry………….the list could go on. In these moments I have to remain calm and have patience. If I overreact, she might shut down and not want to communicate with me at all. Instead I have to be present, be patient, and wait so when the really big issues come, she will come to me.

There are days when the waves are small and gentle and there are also days when the waves are much bigger. On the days that the waves are bigger, it is hard to paddle out. And when you do paddle out and hit the lineup the waves appear to tower over you like a skyscraper. It takes a lot of courage to go out when the waves are big. Parenting also takes a lot of courage, especially when you are raising a teenager. Over the past few years Dominique has put Jim and I through the ringer. We have faced her exploring her sexuality, being afraid to drive, watching her play sports where she can get hurt, watching her get hurt, flirting with boys, learning about Facebook, going to movies and dances by herself…………again the list could go on. But through it all you have to be courageous because she is learning to become and adult, she has to learn to explore the world without your guidance. It is terrifying, but it is part of being a parent.

When you surf you will wipe out. But when you wipe out, you have to get back up on the board and go out again. In order to surf you need to be resilient. In parenting you will sometimes fail. But you have to get back up and keep being a mom.

The most important thing, surfing is fun. Riding a wave is exhilarating. It makes me smile and fills me with joy. As a mom, I have to remember to have fun and enjoy it. It can be challenging and tough, but most days being a mom makes me smile and fills me with joy. There are few things as exhilarating as watching your baby girl grow up to a beautiful woman.

Thank you for being such a great kid Dominique.

DCIM100GOPRO

Happy Mother’s Day.

Catching the Glass Wave

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By 2017 the global surfing market is expected to be a $13.2 billion industry. Within the market women are one of the primary consumers. Ladies apparel is a major revenue generator in the market. Ironically, while women may drive the market there is a glass wave that women are trying to catch.

The glass wave women are paddling for is the same gap women are trying to close in other industries such as politics, business, and education. There is a disparity in the number of women in the top leadership spots. In the United States 3% of CEOs are women and in government the country ranks 71st in female legislative representation, behind Bangladesh and Sudan. Similar disparities are found in the professional surf tour.

The women’s tour features 17 women who compete in seven events, compared to the men’s tour that features 34 surfers competing in ten events. The men have more events and they also earn more prize money. There are seven male surfers with career earnings of over a million dollars in prize money. Layne Beachley is the female with the highest career earnings, winning just over $650,000. The next highest female earner after her won almost $200,000 less over their career. The disparity in pay stems from women having fewer events and the difference in the payouts for men and women. The male winner gets about $90,000 an event compared to the female winner who earns about $40,000.

Tour winnings is only one aspect, another is endorsements. Men are more likely to be featured in advertisements, meaning another paycheck. Women surfers are less likely to be used by companies to endorse products. Companies tend to use models, meaning the model is handsomely compensated not the female surfers.

The professional tour and endorsements is a small sliver of the gender gap. Surf movies depict men riding huge waves or traveling the world as soul surfers. Women may get a small part in some of these movies, but rarely do they feature women as the rugged surfer explorer. There are a few movies about women surfers, but they often lack the same sense of adventure. Women are more often featured surfing their local break. If they travel they go to a well-known surf spot.

The impact is seen at local surf spots. Yes women and girls surf, but in a line up of 20 there are usually only one or two women. Chasing this glass wave and closing the gap has some unique challenges. As more women surf there may be a sense that through natural progression the landscape of surfing will change. However a close examination of the business and political systems in the United States reveals change in an already established system is difficult. The surf industry is a well-oiled, established machine. In order to catch the glass wave women need to take an active role.

Female surfers should start be recognizing that surfing has the same barriers that other industries have already identified. People have an unconscious bias about who can be a surfer; women more often than men may need to balance family, work and surf; and women tend to struggle with confidence.

Fortunately these barriers can be overcome. One way is to establish female role models in the surf community. Though it is difficult to recreate the archetype of a Kelly Slater, role models can be found in local communities. Women around the country have formed surf clubs. These clubs are a way for women to network and find other surfers they can identify with. Within these clubs women find surfing role models.

When women and girls have role models to identify with it helps them to eliminate the unconscious bias that exists about what a surfer is supposed to look like. Women will see other women surfing. Women will see other women balancing surf, family, and work. Women will be able to identify with their stories and struggles of what it is like to build the confidence to paddle out into an all male line up.

Confidence is a necessary tool for a surfer, yet women who are skilled surfers may be more likely to struggle with confidence.

A company in England ran a focus group, asking women at all levels in the company why they didn’t put themselves forward for senior roles. The response, women said they weren’t encouraged to apply and in many cases they lacked the confidence to try.

The same holds true for women in the water. Some women are afraid to paddle for waves. Even though they may have the skill level to catch and surf the wave, they may defer going for a wave because they lack the confidence. Having role models, seeing other women surfing, and giving each other support is a way to build confidence.

As more women surf, the sport and the industry will evolve. If women sit and wait for someone else to make the changes, they may be waiting a while. Imagine what surfing would be like if Gregg Noll never paddled for that wave in Waiemea Bay. The same is true for women. Surfers like Lakey Petterson, Sally Fitzgibbons, and Stephanie Gilmore have the potential to push the sport into a new direction. With a few strong paddles from some strong female surfers, women might be able to ride the glass wave.

Ruggles Ave

Thigh Gap and Body Image

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The thigh gap; I had never heard of it until the other day. It is the gap between your legs when you stand with your knees together. Apparently it is a must have for young girls today.

Girls share photos of their thigh gap. There are also blog posts providing instruction on what to and what not to work out in order to get a thigh gap.

It makes me sad that some girls are so obsessed with this part of their body. Boys probably don’t care if a girl has a thigh gap or not. The only usefulness in a thigh gap is avoiding chafing during a run, but lets face it body glide does a pretty good job of preventing chafing.

It doesn’t seem worth it to try and shape one part of the body.

I took some time for self-reflection, I wondered if I was a teen now if I would want a thigh gap. I admit when I was younger my workout inspiration was vanity not health. I did crunches to get a flat stomach. I did booty shaping exercises. But I don’t think I was obsessed. For me working out was sporadic. I worked out if I felt fat or thought I ate too much.

A healthy lifestyle didn’t mean much to me. I ate too much fast food, drank too many sodas, and consumed more calories than I needed. My fitness gauge was how well my jeans fit. Sports were my saving grace. I played all through school and beyond (still do). That was the constant in my life that kept me moving.

Over time I did learn the right things. And as a result, my lifestyle is much healthier. Now, my goal is to teach my daughter how to lead a healthy lifestyle and teach her to look at food as fuel. I don’t want her to view food as the enemy.

It concerns me that her peers may have a distorted image of what a healthy body looks like. Today it’s the thigh gap. Unless there is a cultural shift regarding beauty and health, girls will find another part of their body to obsess about and hate.