Surfing, sponsorship and sexploitation
The contemporary surfing industry is a multi-billion dollars a year global business that prospers from the sexualised images being employed in the lifestyle marketing and sponsorship of female professional surfers. This is despite surfing being primarily a male-dominated sport. While many professional female surfers project qualities of liberation and self-reliance, mixed messages remain about whether the promotion of female surfers empower them or lead to a form of compliance. Drawing on empirical data as well as an analysis of media representations of female surfers this chapter explores specifically the impact sponsorship has had on them as individuals and more generally on the future development of women’s competitive surfing. Results indicate that sex discriminates and is used to exploiting professional female surfers who in reality continue to have less opportunity than male surfers to attract sponsorship and obtain equal prize money. In addition, while the continued sexploitation of female surfers may increase company profits it does little to promote women’s surfing prowess and ability, and in some cases, acts to disempower them.