Today I was the only woman out surfing at Jailbreaks – a perfect right-hand reef off the island of Himmafushi, Maldives – in a sea of 50 or so middle-aged men from Japan and Israel, Europe and Australia. Enough male pattern baldness to rival the Trump administration without their wigs. That's not their fault though.
Did I drop in on some of them? Yes.
By accident? Yes.
On purpose? Yes.
When they paddled right past me and back up to the peak after they had just come off a wave and proceeded to take off on another one?
Yes. You’re damn right I dropped in.
And I definitely didn’t say sorry for that one.
It’s not as much an issue of respect, I find, as it is an assertion of belonging. Of existence. An expression of being woman in the sea; that despite the barriers that stand in our way, I will stand in my power as woman on the waves, with as much a right as no one to the joy of these liquid energies, fleeting, beneath my feet.
Today it was 50 men - bigger, stronger and (obviously) with more balls than me, on an overhead day in epic conditions. And there I sat, all 115 pounds of me, the only woman out at the peak, waiting for my waves, reclaiming my temporary space in the sea.
You think I’m wrong for dropping in?
You think I should wait my turn? Follow the accepted etiquette ‘rules’ of surfing?
Trust me. I’ve waited.
Any woman in the ocean on a day with decent size, like today, has unquestionably waited her turn.
We’ve waited in lineups that make us cry, on days when only the boldest among us would dare drop in. We’ve waited for babies to grow inside us and for the men in our lives to stop talking long enough to listen. We’ve waited while our brothers of the sea ogle our bodies and objectify the skin we surf in. We’ve waited while aggro kooks drop in too deep, knowing they’ll never make the section, when we’re in perfect position a little further down the line. Because they would rather take a heavy lip to the face than back off and let a woman enjoy her ride. We’ve waited while men snake us every chance they get, deeper and deeper and deeper in toward the peak. We’ve waited before dawn. We’ve waited after dark. We’ve waited beneath the blazing midday island sun. We’ve waited to speak our truth. We’ve waited to be heard. We’ve waited to scream our story so loud the silence fears our words.
Trust me. We’ve waited.
We've waited through our own crippling fears and anxiety in a world that tells us to be safe inside and not free in our skin in the wild outdoors where we belong. We’ve waited within our social conditioning into patriarchy that tells us men have the right to teach us their history and their rules and instruct us on which waves we can take and when we should wait. We’ve waited while you’ve had 20 waves and we’ve surfed one, or none. We've waited our turn a hundred thousand times, only for our turn to never actually arrive.
We’ve waited on the shore on days we can't gather the gumption to fight you for our waves anymore. We’ve waited while you apologize after dropping in on our line, when we have to push your board away from cracking right into our delicate bones, or spilling our blood like wine. We've waited through ten-wave sets on the inside that we would never have had to deal with had you not fucked up our flow. We've waited out our fits of rage and we've kept quiet so as not to make a show. We've waited when you fall in front of us and we have to protect our faces from your flying fins.
We've waited while you deny our reality, comparing our experience to your own and calling it the same. We've waited while the world tells us we have to behave like men to surf our waves, and we've waited while our unique femininities get lost among these macho seas of change. We've waited out the moments when we get the courage to paddle into the biggest set wave and you drop in on us as if it were a game. We've waited while you back paddle and call us off waves you haven't even made.
Trust me. We’ve waited.
We’ve waited at home on the heaviest days of our moon and in crutches and casts while we heal our broken bones. We’ve waited when the ‘rules’ are stacked in your favor, masculinity on display like a battle ground of guts and glory, a game we’d rather not have to play. We’ve waited through the humiliation of our own self-sexualization to cater to your hungry eyes, before we realize it makes us party to our own oppression like slavery in disguise.
We’ve waited while our Hawaiian sisters' surf histories were erased and replaced with the colonizing misogyny of your rules and endless summer dreams gone awry. We've waited while you call us bitch, whore, kook, cunt and dyke – simply because we’re in the water surfing and we won’t go away. We’ve waited while you joke to your friends about eating our ass-in-bikini for breakfast on any given day.
Fuck you. We've waited.
On land. In the sea. To vote. To get on the boat without someone telling us to be scared. To be careful. To be anything but powerful fucking women with fire in our spirit and an insatiable thirst for the uncertain seas in our revolutionary dreams.
So you think I should wait my turn?
I think you should wait one goddamn second and tell me what it feels like to be the only woman at the peak in a line-up of 50 middle-aged men in swollen seas and heavy winds, 10,711 miles from home. Let me know how that tastes on your tongue. Then you tell me to wait my turn.
Until then, I’m going. Short of putting any one in danger or acting like a complete asshole out there, I’m dropping into the waves I want, every wave I can make – today and any day. And I’m giving absolutely no apologies for being there. For being here. For being anywhere.
I’m done waiting.
It’s not about respect or entitlement. It's not an-eye-for-an-eye. It’s not even about equality.
It’s about equity. Freedom. Our fair share of something that belongs to no one. Despite all these barriers to access we face as women surfers (which most men continue to deny or minimize). On land. In the ocean. Everywhere.
As women among the waves, our turn is now.