It's the 1980s and the world of professional surfing is a circus of fluoro colours, peroxide hair and
radical male egos. GIRLS CAN’T SURF follows the journey of a band of renegade surfers who took on the male-dominated professional surfing world to achieve equality and change the sport forever. Featuring surfing greats Jodie Cooper, Frieda Zamba, Pauline Menczer, Lisa Andersen, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha, Layne Beachley and more, GIRLS CAN’T SURF is a wild ride of clashing personalities, sexism, adventure and heartbreak, with each woman fighting against the odds to make their dreams of competing a reality.
BEHIND THE SCENES
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
Girls Can't Surf highlights the reality of gender inequality in women’s surfing, tracing a grassroots fight for recognition, acknowledgment and pay parity. We document how the guts and determination of a group of women led to the rise of an industry, transforming how the world views women’s surfing. The film challenges conceptions of surfing as a fundamentally male sport, inspiring a new generation of young women to rise up and get involved. Capturing key cultural shifts from the 1980’s to now, the film showcases how far we have come, and the women who helped us get here.
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
As the conversation on gender equality continues into the 21st century, our film showcases a generation of role models for young women – in the surfing world and beyond. Set against the backdrop of the vibrant world of surfing, Girls Can't Surf speaks to broader themes of struggle, empowerment and the fight for change. In doing so, the film introduces some of surfing’s unseen heroes, highlighting the power of women to make change in the face of discrimination and injustice.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
The documentary seeks to highlight the long-fought battle for gender and pay equity in a historically male-dominated sport, shedding light on key challenges faced by female athletes across the world. By centring the stories of women who broke the rules and paved the way, we initiate a broader discussion about sexism in sport and the importance of equal recognition amongst genders. The film’s inspiring message resonates because it is relatable and achievable – equity can happen when the will is there. These women’s stories, and their skill, will inspire audiences around the world and serve as a crucial reminder of the female spirit, while encouraging recognition of the outcomes that these women fought for and achieved.
How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?
Girls Can't Surf has the capacity to reach audiences via multiple different mediums – with a theatrical release alongside availability on a global streaming platform. But we also envision this film extending beyond this – reaching new and diverse viewers as a teaching aid, a resource for young women’s groups, and as a record of surf culture. We are currently in talks to take the film on a road show, which would provide the opportunity to showcase the film alongside its subjects and current champion surfers. In this way, we are able to further highlight the incredible stories at the centre of the film, amplifying the voices of the women involved. As we build an online resource to aggregate and collect personal archive footage of these subjects, we also open up the possibility to permanently document these forgotten heroes. Ultimately, we offer a new, vibrant and unique tale of perseverance that women can take inspiration from, and apply to, their own lives and experiences.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
We have built relationships with surf life saving groups across Australia in order to ensure that our film connects and resonates with key audiences. Additionally, we are building a network of people and partnerships across Australia to spread the word about the film and magnify our message.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
We hope that viewers of Girls Can't Surf are inspired to advocate for women’s rights across all sections of society, whether it be sport, industry or culture. Drawing on the persistence and courage of the women in the film, we hope that viewers can translate our message into action. Finally, we encourage recognition and acknowledgment of a unique group of female warriors whose tireless fight for equality deserves to be documented, remembered and valued.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
We will see the fight for gender and pay parity continue across the sporting world, providing women in sport with greater recognition, affirmation and remuneration. Young women will be raised to view sport, including professional sport, as an available and accessible route for them to explore, enjoy and excel at. Within surf, we will see more confident and inspiring women follow in their predecessors footsteps, affirmed in their right to occupy spaces that men have historically dominated.