I am so in love with the ocean.
I am so in love with the ocean that it’s a bit disgusting. I could gush for hours about how great it is and it would probably make you sick. Or you just might not believe me.
However, if you don’t believe me—just have a look at my photos.
Look at the challenges, the lessons, the smiles, the beauty, and the connection that the ocean gifts us with. It can bring you the best moments of your day, week or month. But don’t forget, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature and the ocean can quickly turn on you and become your greatest teacher.
If you look at my photos, you will see my close friends sharing this exact same love for the ocean as I do. It is for this reason that I chose to photograph female surfing.
When I first arrived in Tofino, I was absolutely blown away by the handful of male photographers that were documenting their friends surfing amongst the beautiful scenery of this coastal Canadian town. I mean, I cannot emphasize how talented these guys are. However, I was confused; where were the photos of the females that make up nearly half of the line up in the waters?
Vancouver Island’s natural beauty and ever-changing weather paint an unbelievable canvas. The fog, the rain and the rich greens embrace us with a unique ambiance, one unique to most surf destinations. With a background in photography, I almost immediately felt as though I didn’t have an option: I needed to put on some fins, swim out with my friends, and bring the same exposure the male surfers were getting to the unique female surf community of Tofino.
I admit I may be a bit bias when it comes to female surfing. Having a background in dance, I often recognize the connections between ballet and the movements of female bodies amongst the waves. It is a much different expression and style of surfing than that of a male surfer. For example, a cross step, with hands at your side is fourth position in ballet—add the rhythms of the waves, and you have a beautiful dance.
It isn’t just longboarding that women dress with femininity. With short boarding, you can see females in the water by the way they paint the waves with lines of graceful movement.
The commitment Canadian female surfers have for the ocean is incredible. The cold waters, the rain and the super thick wetsuits are things I felt needed to be shared, because this sport does not come without its challenges.
Of course, I wish I could write this article without mentioning the sexualization of female surfing and the double standard that still continues to flirt with the global surf scene.
However, it can’t go unnoticed that in many other parts of the world surf companies and magazines will still publish a photo of an extremely talented female surfer in a string bikini before publishing her epic cutback.
The female body is beautiful, however, avoiding sexualizing the female surfers in Tofino has been one of my biggest goals. Luckily, the female surf community in Tofino has so many layers of neoprene that our female surf community doesn’t have to worry about the sexism in the same way that it floods other surf communities. Without boobs and butts emphasized in my photos I can focus on the connection the women have with the water and the beautiful coast, which at the end of the day, makes me so proud to be a female surfer.
For the most part, I have been extremely supported and encouraged to continue to show off the female surfers on the West Coast, I could never begin to express how grateful I am. Still, I have heard of the occasional male passing judgment on my photographs, saying things along the lines “but she only shoots girls”—which isn’t true.
This surprises me, as there has been decades of males covering the male surf scene but little to no female surf images being produced out of Canada. These situations are difficult for my sensitive soul to digest. However, these are the scenarios that also inspire me to continue to push female surfing images and continue to try to relieve some of the double standard pressure that still seems to be pushing the seams of the surf industry.
So, there are many reasons why I love to shoot female surfing. Primarily for my initial love for the sport and for the girls that embrace themselves with the ocean, but also, for the overall health of the female surf industry.
I feel so grateful to use my camera as a platform to inspire all the young female groms and it is about time Canadian females get some recognition for the far from tropical weather conditions they endure to catch a wave.
This experience of shooting female surfing is something I have been blessed with the opportunity to do. Every time I am asking my friends to aim at me like a bull's eye with their surfboards when I am swimming with my camera, or shooting from shore in the rain with my ankle length red poncho, or just surfing, I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of this community.
I feel like I have hit a visual gold mine both as a photographer and as a surfer and my only hope is to inspire more females to get amongst the water and feel as liberated as I do.
What do you think of the female surf community of Tofino?
Up next: The Importance of Your Surf Tribe