This is from a couple of years ago, but still relevant today.
What’s your take?
Posted on July 3, 2011 /
On the ASP Women’s World Tour, 25 is the new menopausal.
Thirty is off to hospice. Carissa, Coco, Sally, Laura, Tyler — they’re evicting from relevance anyone born before Ice Ice Baby. There’s now but one (1) surfer on tour over age 30 (Jacqueline Silva, born 7/17/79 — though she’s been out most of the year with injury) and the top three girls average just 18 years old. At the season finale in Huntington Beach next month, the newly crowned world champ won’t be old enough to buy a round at Duke’s Barefoot Bar. Only sugar-free Red Bull, sans the Ketel.
On the men’s tour, by contrast, fully one third of the surfers are at least 30. The current world champ is eight months shy of being officially middle-aged. The men bring their wives and children on tour; girls bring their dads. It calls to mind cruel Hollywood, where aging actors are “distinguished” but aging actresses are just old women. Only, in the surfers’ case, they’re not that old.
Why is this happening now? Don’t know. Perhaps physiology. Perhaps women’s bodies peak earlier in ways that affect performance. Perhaps it helps that no rude fetus ever takes root in a man’s midsection.
Or perhaps this generation is an anomaly, and the age ceiling is imagined — just a demographic/cultural cocktail shaken and poured all at once. Dave Prodan, the ASP’s Media Director and a man who knows the tour cold, agrees that today’s girls are exceptional.
“It’s very possible to assert that we’re witnessing a generational shift in women’s surfing at the moment,” he said via email. “We’re seeing a group of girls on tour now that have expansive repertoires (style, power, airs, rail work, etc.) and are generally more agile and faster in smaller conditions. These same girls are also very capable in surf of consequence, so I do believe the current ASP Top 17 are amongst the very best collectives of girls we’ve ever had on tour.”
I care less to explain the trend than to imagine its consequences. Is the new woman surfer really through at 21? I daresay she isn’t. Carissa Moore, 18, who in two weeks might win this year’s world title, dares say the same: “I think that the women’s lifespan in surfing can definitely last as long as the guys’. I just think for different reasons, [older] women have gone off and done other things. But I think with the right focus, women’s careers can last just as long,” she said when queried.
More enticing is the possibility that these are the Messiah girls who finally take women’s surfing from short bus (á la WNBA) to the popular table next to women’s tennis. Already they’ve begun to leverage and shine. Laura Enever shot by Annie Leibovitz; Coco Ho training with Gunnar Peterson for Gatorade; Carissa Moore’s mega-sponsor triumvirate. None of it screams “sideshow.” Mitch Coleborn isn’t in Vanity Fair. This is very interesting now. —Stuart Cornuelle