“Paddle, Paddle!”, How it Feels to be a ‘Helpless’ Female Surfer

malia manuel

Malia Manuel, a chick who shreds! Image cred hakimsurf

I have a question for my fellow female surfers:

Have you ever had a stranger give you pointers when you clearly did not ask, nor require them?

Has a guy you don’t know ever yelled out “paddle, paddle” to you in the surf?

Or have you ever experienced being repeatedly snaked, or dropped in on when no one else in the water is getting the same treatment?

Okay. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I am the only one in the line up who has “helpless” written on my forehead.

A few months back I was paddling out in the channel of my local break. A break I have been surfing for over ten years. It was summertime, peak tourist time. The lineup had plenty of faces I had never seen before.

One particular face remarked as I was paddling out, “you need to paddle over to that peak, you’re not going to get any waves there.”

I am paddling out in a channel. I haven’t even got my hair wet yet. Of course I’m not going to sit in the channel. Do I look like an idiot?

This balding legend on a mini mal had kindly offered me some advice.

“I’m good thanks. I’m good.” I huffed.

Now why did I get so cranky about this?

Well unless you are an eight-year-old boy, I have only ever seen women get this sort of friendly, but patronising advice in the water.

Now I am sure that this man had no idea that this was my local break. He did not come from the area; locals know locals. But the amount of times I have been treated like I need special attention in the surf is ridiculous. The only thing I can put it down to is because I am a woman.

Why is it when you’re a girl, there’s an instant assumption that you are hopeless and need help?

I am sick to death of it.

Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t happen to me every session. And, of course, not every man does this. But I really would love it if eventually the female surfer is seen as just another person in the lineup. Not someone that needs the encouraging “paddle, paddle” from a complete stranger. Or that is a target to be snaked.

And hey guys, I do appreciate your friendliness – it’s good to know you’ve got my back. But girls will ask for assistance if they need it!

Maybe instead of telling us to “paddle harder”, give us a hoot when we get a good wave!


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