This is the only female surfer stock photo I could find that didn't look like a bikini ad.
In 2014, there are few things more potent than a teen girl with a laptop, the ability to form a coherent argument, and a really justified grievance that people deserve to hear about. That's what Australian surfing magazine Tracks was forced to deal with this weekend when they landed on the wrong end of a Letter to the Editor from Olive Bowers, a 13-year-old Australian surfer who found Tracks' coverage of female surfers simply unacceptable (or more accurately, nonexistant).
In particular, she highlighted the fact that virtually all of the women who appear in Tracks, either in the magazine or online, appear in sections like "Tracks Vixens" (a monthly honor), the "Miss Tracks Poster Girls," or competing in the Miss Bintang Sunset Coast 2014 contest.
Check out the accomplishments on these ladies. (via Tracks)
It turned out to be a pretty good argument, because her letter was featured in The Sun-Herald, Australia's largest newspaper, and later on web publications around the world.
Read the full letter here:
Sadly, clicking on a web section called 'Girls' rarely leads to empowering images.
Tracks has responded to this charge predictably, with a long lettor from the Editor, Luke Kennedy. In it, he hits all the classic "no, see, it's impossible that we're sexist" beats. He whines about the fact that Olive's grandmother is a somewhat-known novelist (why else would The Sun-Herald print her letter?). He invokes the story he wrote about his surfer mom as proof that neither he nor Tracks could be against female surfers. He contends that he doesn't get any good female surfing submissions, and criticises The Sun-Herald for running a story about Elle MacPherson being hot at 50 next to their story on Olive. Finally, he says that they talked about making a Tracks for Girls but couldn't find advertisers, and links to two stories in Tracks about female surfers.
Finally, the argument (from him but especially from commenters) seems to rest on the fact that since Tracks' current readership is male, they deserve women to look at. If they would like to keep things that way, may I recommend not calling it a "surfing magazine," but a "men's magazine with some surfing stuff"? Because if you're going to be a "surfing magazine," your mission to portray surfing honestly should come ahead of the fact that right now your readers are horny guys who think women only come to the beach to watch them. That's not a surfing magazine, that's wish fulfillment.
(by Johnny McNulty)