Clare Sullivan Discusses Being a Lesbian on Tour

Why Women’s Surfing is in the Deep End

Earlier this year, around the time of the inaugural Australian Open of Surfing in Manly, I found myself at a friend-of-a-friend’s barbecue. Of the twelve or so guests, my girlfriend and I were the only ones who weren’t female professional surfers. I didn’t need to be told. Many of them had made appearances in my life before, carving across the pages of one of the surfing mags piled up next to my bed or grinning at me from a window display as I bought Havaianas.

On the balcony of an ultra-modern holiday rental property overlooking one of Australia’s iconic beaches, we sat around a table spread with organic meat, quinoa salads and wine – for those who weren’t competing the next day – chatting and swapping stories. At some point it emerged that everyone in the group was either sitting next to their girlfriend, an ex, or a future love interest. Despite resenting the ways in which queer women are stereotyped, I was ashamedly surprised by this little matrix of same-sex attraction: you would be hard-pressed to find such long, blonde hair and deep tans in a straight club on a Saturday night, let alone a gay one. Nevertheless, being surfers ourselves, my girlfriend and I were enamored with these women and their lifestyle.

Then, the wine dried up, the sun went down, and it was over. We spent the whole drive home talking about these women; their travel plans, their quivers, their free clothes and surf gear, their tans, and their good looks. It seemed like they had it all.

Having gotten to know these girls better over the last few months, the illusion of ‘it all’ has been washed away. Instead, I find myself coming to the conclusion that being a female professional surfer isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, especially if you’re not straight.

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