Don't be scared to paddle out... Girl surfer myths put to rest

You’re a girl surfer and you deserve to surf too!


There seems to be an unspoken fear with the girl surfer, no matter what level you surf at. A worry that you may be the only lady in the line up. That the guys will drop in on you, you’ll be yelled at or worse, humiliated and laughed at if you fall off a wave.


Well I am here to help. We have all felt that fear or nervousness to paddle out… I personally try to avoid surfing D-Bah because the level of surfers is so high, they don’t need another kook crowding the line up!


You should have seen me the first time I went for a wave at Bondi Beach!

There I was, jumping off the 333 bus in my knee length boardies, a white rashie and a 7 foot mal which was dinged to pieces. Looking back I must have been quite a sight! Regardless, I jumped in clueless to my new surroundings but excited all the same. I had no idea which surfer had right of way or where to sit, but I vividly remember guys telling me how to paddle. They were encouraging. Maybe the fact that I had ‘kook’ written across my forehead married with a strong English accent and a smile from ear to ear, helped me that day. I will never know.

Needless to say this was the start of my surfing journey and I have never looked back.


To help me explain and finally put those surf girl myths to rest, I asked a few of my local surfing friends from up here on the Gold Coast to help explain what it’s really like to be a girl surfer…


surfer girl

The girls get ready to paddle out at dawn



Girl Surfer Myth 1:

I am going to be the only girl in the line up and guys are going to look at me like I shouldn’t be there.


Very rarely are you the only girl in the line up. There will usually be another girl going it alone and with the right approach, there should be an immediate bond between the two of you. Fran Miller, an advanced surfer and photographer of “The Blue Mar” for Girl Surf Network agrees by saying:


in reality most males in the water are actually quite used to it and aren’t necessarily going to treat you any different than anyone else. If you respect general surfing rules like not dropping in etc. you are not going to be treated much different so there is no reason to feel discouraged”.


While you may not be the only girl in the line up, I will admit the ratio is most likely going to be more male heavy. Gold Coasts local ripper and Professional QS World Tour Surfer Audrey Styman-Lane suggests:


Be friendly, say Hi and hassle back, it doesn’t sound like a good idea but its will get you waves!”. Give the boys a little run for their money.


If you haven’t seen the growth in Woman’s Surfing, I am here to tell you that entire coast line is filled with courageous females. My good friend Jess, who was raised in the surf by her Dad, surfs the Goldie Coastline daily and feels that generally, guys are really supportive of us girls in the line up, particularly if we are on our own. She says:


I don’t think chivalry is dead” and reminds us that “no one is watching so don’t feel intimidated. Guys are not overly competitive with girls so you just go your own pace but don’t let yourself be dropped in on too many times either.


Freya Prumm

Freyja Prumm giving the boys something to look at.
Photo Frances Miller


Girl Surfer Myth 2

Guys will discourage me and yell at me in the surf.


There are morons in every sport. From the guy yelling on the rugby pitch to the girl bad mouthing her opponents on the netball court. This is competition and a part of any sport…


Audrey’s twin sister Grace Styman-Lane, another Gold Coast local ripper and professional QS World Tour surfer told me about this one guy in particular at Snapper Rocks who seemed to constantly sit on her inside and hassle her. She recalled the experience saying:


I’ve had a go at him and asked him why he kept hassling me and he said its because he was a “local” and that I should go in”.


This particular guy is an example of a jerk and you will get them in every town, in every sport. Grace reminded me not to take one experience as the norm and to think about the positives:


“The majority of the guys in the surf are always really nice and encouraging… a few of the guys have even given me tips on where to sit behind the rock at snapper, like where the best take off spots are which is very helpful!”. That’s what a local should be doing.


Professional competitive surfer Freyja Prumm was given a few tips out at Snapper recently, not that she would need any!! She says that more often than not the guys don’t discourage her, they offer tips and advice and are genuinely showing concern and interest for her improvement.. “It’s better over here” they say. The other day she got, “you got this one girlfriend”. It gets you more excited to perform at your peak to know you have the support of your peers, boy or girl.


My kiwi friend Jenna who has surfed on the Gold Coast for the past 7 years told me about a time she was actually yelled at in the surf by the father of a kid. She went for the same wave and though no one was hurt, the father was freaking out in fear for the safety of his kid rather than trying to discourage her to surf. These things will happen, especially on the Gold Coast. We live on a busy stretch of coast where battling crowded line ups is something of an every day occurrence.


I wrote another article on tips to manage the crowds here.


There is one thing I wanted to add and this I can promise you, the feeling of catching a wave makes all the other fears you may have, go away. I surf because I love being in the ocean and I love the challenge and reward of catching a wave… there is nothing quite like it in the world.


Overcome your fear and prepare for the best feeling in the world

Overcome your fear and prepare for the best feeling in the world.



The girls all agree with me….


Audrey “I love the freedom you feel. It’s just you and the ocean out there. I surf because it makes me happy, you meet new people and you get barrelled (best feeling on planet earth!).”


Fran “Surfing is pure freedom, an immersion in nature and the act of submitting to a force greater than oneself. I surf because it pleases me spiritually, and is an outlet for all my energy. When you are on a wave, you are only in that moment. Your mind releases fully. It is definitely a form of meditation for me”


Grace “I love the freedom of surfing!”


Freyja “I like surfing because I’m one of those try-hards who likes to put effort into stuff so it feels good to put heaps of might into a cutty and feel the drive. Once you get barrelled there is no going back either. It’s magic to be in the ocean sunrise, sunset, in a storm, on a beautiful day, with friends, with family – the ocean is a great place to be. It is healing.”


Jess “I love everything about it; it makes me feel present and connect with nature through the ocean. It makes me feel fit and strong but doesn’t feel like exercise. It gives me a purpose to adventure around the world. It is a constant challenge, physically and mentally and all this adds up to making it my favourite thing to do.”


Jenna “I surf because surfing is ocean therapy for me. It’s my connection to nature. It calms me down if I’m upset and it relaxes me If I’m uptight. It makes me feel good! Just something about that feeling of before, during and after surfing… It’s all good!! I use to care if I surfed well, but now I mainly appreciate it as food for the soul. Whether I surf well or not.”


Girl surfer

Get out there



So whatever you may have heard there is no need to be worried or scared. Be confident, stand your ground and remember no one is watching. They are most likely more concerned with their own surfing session then yours! Get out there and have some fun…


Have you ever had an experience in the water just because you’re a girl surfer? How do you get over your fears? Share below.


About the author

Sarah O'Brien