The Untold Story of Female Surfers Defying Stereotypes

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How Roxy put women’s surfing on the map.

RX-2017-S2-SWIM-SAUNDERS-10324_webSierra Kerr is fierce. She’s also fearless, a prodigiously talented surfer and only nine years old. The pint-sized third grader also skateboards, snowboards, wakesurfs and is an avid golfer. She counts her victories as “coming out of the surf with a smile on my face” and her challenges are “my backhand and paddling into slow waves because I am not strong enough yet”.

But her favourite moment was seeing her photo on the Roxy team poster for the very first time during the 2016 US Open of Surfing. The daughter of Australian pro surfer Josh Kerr, Sierra was sponsored by Roxy at age eight. “I am so proud to be a Roxy girl and inspire other girls to follow their dreams,” she says, grinning. “I was seven years old, surfing on the Gold Coast with all the Roxy girls. My Roxy sisters asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said a Roxy girl, like them.”

ROXYFRANCE_-12The women’s surf scene has come a long way. Sands shift, waves wax and wane, but Roxy has transformed the industry in the last 27 years. In 1990, Quiksilver saw an opportunity in the untapped women’s market, coinciding with the surging popularity in women’s surfing, thanks to shredders like Layne Beachley, leading to the launch of sister brand Roxy. (Roxy’s logo is two Quiksilver logos, mirrored to form a heart.)

It was a triumph. The brand bagged sales of over AU$1 million in their second year. But it was one afternoon in Hawaii (as legend has it) as the crew sat on the shore watching the waves barrel and break that they came up with an idea what would change women’s surfwear forever. Boardshorts. For women.

“It’s refreshing to see young talent rising up and inspiring not just a culture of board riding but defying stereotypes.”

In 1992, US surfer Lisa Andersen was sponsored by Quiksilver (her first sponsorship deal) and became the first athlete to be sponsored by Roxy in 1994. With Lisa as muse, Roxy developed boardshorts with a fit and flexibility that appealed to women around the world. (“I started surfing in the ’80s and swimwear wasn’t exactly user-friendly in the surf,” says Lisa. “So I wore guys’ boardshorts and T-shirts and stuff so when we did boardshorts it was amazing… I was comfortable but I could still perform. I could surf like a badass.”) The shorts were a runaway success and Lisa would go on to become a four-time world champion, hall of famer, and the first woman to grace the cover of Surfer Magazine. The winning combination put women’s surfing on the map.

“Lisa Andersen made it okay to be a woman and a surfer in one,” says Danielle McKenzie, Roxy’s head of global marketing. “She is considered by many to be the most influential surfer in the history of women’s surfing and her contributions to the Roxy brand and team have played a key role in our success.”

“Roxy created first-of-its-kind products and cultivated female pioneers that changed the course of surfing and in doing so, empowered women to challenge the status quo.”

Now, Roxy, who still brings Lisa on tour to mentor younger Roxy surfers, is the largest corporate sponsor of women’s surfing worldwide with Roxy Pro events touted as some of the most prestigious and exciting surf events in the world championship’s calendar. While Lisa has since retired from the pro circuit (she remains the brand’s worldwide ambassador), Roxy continues to show unwavering support for female surfers and sportswomen, including up-and-comers like Sierra.

Mainei Kinimaka is an 18-year-old from Kaua’i, Hawaii. Being in the ocean is a massive part of her culture, and surfing has been in her family’s heritage for generations. Roxy began sponsoring Mainei (along with her sister) when she was also just eight years old, but she says her connection with the brand has been there for as long as she can remember.

“My dad, Titus, is a long-time Quiksilver rider, so growing up I was fortunate enough to join him on trips and was surrounded by all of the awesome people who make up the Quiksilver and Roxy family.”

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“The brand has broken down so many barriers in women’s surfing with icons like Lisa Andersen and Stephanie Gilmore, who have inspired countless young female surfers to push themselves to achieve what’s never been done before,” says Mainei, who spent years balancing school and surfing, often doing homework on the plane or missing a competition to be in class, and will be starting university online this year. “Innovating for women is at the heart of what we do,” says Danielle. “Roxy was the first – and remains the only – exclusively female action sports brand in the world.”

“Roxy created first-of-its-kind products and cultivated female pioneers that changed the course of surfing and in doing so, empowered women to challenge the status quo. It started the day Lisa Andersen ripped in the first pair of female boardshorts. The day [skier] Sarah Burke dropped into superpipe. And the day [surfer] Kelia Moniz log-dropped into Teahupoo. It’s moments like these that paved the way for the Roxy brand to inspire all women to push the boundaries in all areas of their life.”

Twenty-three-year-old West Australian surfer Bronte Macaulay has practically grown up with the brand. “My dad used to ride for Quiksilver when he competed on the circuit back in the day so I think we were exposed to the brand at an early age. I remember having my first mini Quiksilver wetsuit when I was about five. It was a blue spring suit and I loved it. When I was about 12, I surfed a grommet contest called the Taj Small Fires and after it, my older twin sisters and I were lucky enough to get a deal with Roxy,” she says, smiling. “They encourage girls to never sell yourself short, have fun and embrace who you are.”

Bronte head shot 1The sheer amount of travel involved in competing has meant it’s not all smooth sailing (or surfing, as it were) for Bronte, even as a pro surfer. And after finishing just one spot from qualifying for the World Surf League Women’s Championship Tour (which is comprised of 17 surfers – the top 10 surfers, top six qualifiers and a wildcard) in 2015, Bronte took some time to put it all in perspective.

“I wanted to remember to enjoy the process of competing,” she says. This year will be the Western Australian’s rookie year on the championship tour and Danielle is glowing in her praise of all the girls surfing under their banner.

“It’s refreshing to see young talent rising up and inspiring not just a culture of board riding but defying stereotypes. The Roxy girls are true individuals. We celebrate their unique personalities as well as their athleticism.”

Bronte actionBut it’s not just about their surfers, Roxy hopes to inspire all women to be daring, confident and naturally beautiful. “We are deeply connected to the mountain and the wave and believe others should be too. In a digital age, we remind women to experience the immense freedom found in reconnecting with our natural surroundings.”

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