It’s the 1980s and the world of professional surfing is a circus of flouro colours, peroxide hair and radical male egos. Surf culture is the hottest thing on the planet and male surfers the Main Event. Meanwhile, women in surf are being paid a tenth of the prize money and relegated to holding contests during the men’s lunch breaks. The Sideshow is the untold story of how that ragtag bunch of inspiring characters broke loose to turn women’s surfing into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today.
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
The Sideshow 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, The Sideshow 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 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 The Sideshow 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.