This story originally ran on news.com.au, and A LOT of other mainstream news pages in Australia. I have to say that I feel badly for her on this one. It must have been embarrassing enough to have lost, repeatedly, on the world stage..but then to have to relive that via news outlets calling you out and weighing up your (implied: undeserved) notoriety is really embarrassing. But my feeling is that this lady probably has some thick skin already in regards to public criticism.
She is a talented surfer and very competent waterwoman. It’s too bad that not many people realize this.
What the articles DOES do well though, is highlight the fact that surfing talent is definitely not the most important prerequisite for female surfers in our culture. What is the deciding prerequisite? Adherence to certain, very narrow definitions of beauty.
Alana, and most of the female surfers in the public eye are YOUNG women doing the best they know how with the information, education and knowledge they have.
The real problem is the stale, hetero-sexist culture that makes up the DNA of surf culture.
Alana Blanchard is the most popular surfer in the world but she can’t win a heat
ALANA Blanchard’s popularity in women’s surfing is unrivalled.
With more than 1.5 million Facebook likes and 1.1 million Instagram followers, she has a global reach beyond any of the sport’s other competitors.
The only problem is she can’t win. At all.
The women’s tour recently wrapped up in Hawaii and Blanchard achieved the remarkable feat of finishing the season without winning one heat.
That’s 20 heats surfed — 10 three-women heats and 10 two-women heats — without a single positive result.
As she exited the water in Maui, it didn’t matter. She was still mobbed by fans.
But in her post-heat interview you could tell Blanchard has had enough. Losing isn’t fun, no matter how many people want your signature.
“I’m really fortunate that I have good fans and everything,” the 24-year-old said.
“But I think I’m probably not going to do contests next year just because I’m not like super-happy doing it.
“I don’t know. I’m kind of excited for next year. I think I’m going to do different things and see what happens I guess.
“I just feel relieved this year is over. I was pretty stressed out. I did pretty bad. But it’s all good.”
Blanchard burst onto the world scene last year, making quarterfinals in her first two events and gaining thousands of fans with her stunning looks, revealing bikini bottoms and bubbly personality.
But it’s gone downhill this year as she’s suffered straight sets exits at all 10 events and failed to produce the results on the qualifying series to earn a spot on next year’s world tour.
It raises the question of whether the sport is ready to handle the loss of its most recognisable star.
There’s no doubt the competition in the water is as fierce as ever, as six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore and main rivals Tyler Wright, Carissa Moore and Sally Fitzgibbons continue to lift the standard of surfing every year.
But a look at their social media followings displays the huge gap between their popularity and Blanchard’s.
Alana Blanchard — 1.6 million
Sally Fitzgibbons — 547,000
Stephanie Gilmore — 277,000
Carissa Moore — 85,000
Tyler Wright — 28,000
Alana Blanchard — 1.1 million
Sally Fitzgibbons — 257,000
Stephanie Gilmore — 236,000
Carissa Moore — 102,000
Tyler Wright — 70,000
Blanchard, who was voted the most popular surfer in the world in the prestigious Surfer Magazine poll last year, won’t be lost to the sport completely.
The Hawaiian signed a multi-year deal with Rip Curl earlier this year and will continue to mix modelling with free surfing shoots and trips to watch Aussie boyfriend Jack Freestone in world surfing events.
Organisers of the world tour, which has been rebranded the World Surf League, will be praying she decides to compete again soon.
“Alana’s surfing is definitely on point and deserved of a spot on the world championship tour but it gets to a point where it’s so disappointing event after event you wait for things to really go in your favour and it doesn’t seem to work out and you put the hard work in and you start to overthink it,” surfing commentator Rosy Hodge said.
“I think for Alana it’s pretty heartbreaking where you get to that point all the time and you’re really starting to wear that on your shoulders of not making a heat the whole year …
“It’s going to be exciting to see what she decides to do.”