Introduction to Women’s Professional Surfing: A Crash Course

“To say that you could find a lot more about men’s surfing than women’s would be exactly the truth.”

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After I got back from vacation I knew exactly what I was going to write about. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how difficult it was going to be to write about it. Turns out, if you want to learn about women’s professional surfing then you better get ready to do some hardcore research. I figured that with surfing being added to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 that the sport would become much more prevalent. And yes, we are still a far way away from that time, but to say there was a great upturn in the number of avenues in which to research would be an overstatement. To say that you could find a lot more about men’s surfing than women’s would be exactly the truth. But if you want to know who the most attractive female surfers in the world are there are plenty of articles out there for you. Needless to say, this article is a week late and still about eighteen bucks short. But here is a small crash course in what I learned.

 

The Aussies are Killing the Competition

Currently, three of the top four female surfers, per the World Surf League, are Australian. They are Tyler Wright, Sally Fitzgibbons, and Stephanie Gilmore, who are in the first, second, and fourth spots respectively. And even though they each only have one competition win, they have done well enough in the other comps to remain on the top of the leader board. Courtney Conlogue, an American, on the other hand, has two competition wins, but hasn’t surfed as well in other competitions so she is currently in third.

 

The Athletes are Ranked on a Points Scale


It may seem weird that even though Conlogue has placed first in more competitions than anyone else in the series, that she is sitting in third place. But that is because the World Surf League is run off of a point system – similar to soccer, but on a way crazier scale. If you place first you receive 10,000 points. Second – 8,000. Third – 6,500. Etc. All of your points are added up, and then your total for the whole series, which is 10 separate competitions in total, gives you your ranking.

 

You Can Watch Online

If you want to learn more about professional surfing in order to get ready for the Tokyo Olympics, or if you just want to see some really awesome athletes ride waves that normal human beings would be terrified of, then I would suggest you check out World Surf League. They have past and present competition videos up and let me tell you, they do not disappoint. They are also probably one of the the only legitimate resource out there if you want to learn more about women’s surfing.

 

Hawaii is Different From the USA

So, another thing that I thought interesting is that, like tennis players, surfers have their country represented next to their name for all competitions. But, Hawaii is considered different than USA. Obviously, this will be different for the Olympics, but it is definitely something interesting to see when you aren’t familiar with surfing and surf culture. Hawaii breeds some of the best surfers in the world, and this looks to acknowledge that. It also maintains the mentality of ‘we grew here, you flew here,’ which, in this instance I really do understand. These women (and men) are proud to be from Hawaii, and surfing is a way of life there – these athletes represent that.

 

Yes, Bethany Hamilton is Still Out There Kicking Some Butt

Even if you have never watched surfing before or if you don’t know a thing about it, you still know Bethany Hamilton. She is the pro surfer who lost her left arm to a Tiger Shark when she was a teenager, and then proceeded to continue to surfer professionally. She also wrote a book and had a movie made about her. Yes, she is incredible. And yes, she is still inspiring. That’s probably why I have a poster of her surfing ‘Jaws’ (Pe’ahi) hanging in my office. She is also sitting at number 19 in the rankings.

 

 

So, like I said, this article should be better. And there should be more avenues for these athletes to really be recognized. But like anything else, we can’t always get what we want. Still, I do not fret. These ladies have a big stage to get ready for in 2020. So there is still time for the world to catch up with how amazing these surfers are. And there is still time for me to catch up too, and to learn more about the sport. Either way, these ladies will still shred a wave like it’s nothing, and we will just be the kooks that wish they could.

U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey – 3 Reasons They Are Everything You Want in Life

“They work hard, and they play harder, and man, do they know how to keep a championship streak alive!”

It took me a while to figure out what I was going to write this week with regards to women’s sports. Sure, Garbiñe Muguruza won Wimbledon and she can definitely make a run at becoming the next great female tennis player, but there is only so far I can stretch that story. Here, I’ll do it in one sentence for you: She can be great if she keeps up with her amazing forehand and figures out how to stop making so many double faults on service.

As you can see, I needed to find a little inspiration somewhere else this week. So I thought I would go searching for some and look into a team that has been on my mind recently, but just haven’t had a chance to learn about – the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team.

Turns out, they are even better than the hype. And I could really drag this article out for many, many pages, but I think it would be better to just give you a taste of what they are about. Because it really didn’t take me long to get excited about them, and I don’t think it will take you too long to jump on the bandwagon with me.

So here it is – 3 reasons you are going to want to root for the USWNT:

 

  1. They are good…like, freakishly good

Every year the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) holds the Women’s World Championship (with the exception of during an Olympic year). The U.S. Women have a record of 71-4-6-8-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L-T). To make it even better they have outscored their opposition 593-135. And who has won the World Championship for the past four years in a row? I’ll give you a hint – they rock the red, white, and blue.

So, let me put it bluntly – this team is easy to love and easy to root for. You know you are getting dominance when they skate out onto the ice. And for every American who, like me, hates to see other teams come out with a win, this team is for you. They work hard, and they play harder, and man, do they know how to keep a championship streak alive!

 

  1. The Rivalry

Some people really love a good rivalry in sports. Sometimes it simply isn’t enough to be the best – there has to be some drama in it. And there has to be one matchup that makes the stakes even higher. Well, don’t worry, my friends, these ladies have that going for them too.

In every gold medal match in IIHF Women’s World Championship history the U.S. Women have played Canada. How is that for a rivalry? Every year it comes down to us and our neighbors to the north? Heck yes – sign me up. We all know how I feel about the U.S./Canada Women’s Soccer rivalry, and now it’s as if I was gifted a second chance to get that riled up again. And yes, Canada has claimed that prize 10 of the 18 times, but the U.S. is coming back with a vengeance winning 8 of the last 10. So who is ready for the PyeongChang Olympics?

 

  1. They know their worth

Okay, so to be fair, I did know about this before I did my research on the team, but this is probably the most amazing reason that you should back these women. These women had the courage to threaten to sit out the World Championships if they did not get fair pay. It was a 15-month long contract dispute that could have ended with the women getting no money, no championship, and no future prospects with regards to the game.

Some may think this is crazy, but they probably don’t realize just what the women were asking for – a livable wage, increased marketing efforts, and USA Hockey’s support of elite programs. Seriously. These women weren’t asking for millions of dollars. In fact, they finally settled around the $70,000 range for salary. Want to know what they made before? $6,000…every four years when they went to the Olympics. Yeah, let that sink in. The current best team in women’s hockey got paid about $28.85 per week to represent the United States on the biggest stage in sports. I can work at McDonalds for 3 hours, one day a week and make more money than that. Ready to back them yet?

 

So there it is. Three things that should make you want to put on some face paint and an oversized hockey jersey and get way too riled up in front of your television once the Olympics comes around. And I know you are now thoroughly convinced, but just in case you want a little more incentive or inspiration to cheer for these ladies, check out ESPN’s latest Body Issue – U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey had quite the showing.

 

Until next time…GO U.S.A.!

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Team You’ve Never Heard Of

“…you should support them. Not because they play with a disability, but because they are the best…”

Read this in silence. Soak in the quiet, and think about what it would be like to live in that silence for a full 90 minutes with 10 other women who are equally void of the sounds around them. Now, on top of that, play one of the most tasking sports in the world, all while trying to win a championship. Do it with minimal funding and limited support. Be five-time gold medalists at this feat. And then walk down the street after accomplishing that feat and have no one know the difference.

Welcome to the world of the US Deaf Women’s National Team (USDWNT) – the best team you’ve never heard of.

Soccer is a grueling sport on the body, and mentally it is just as tough. Working as a cohesive team doesn’t always go the way you expect it to – you make a run that someone doesn’t see, or you close down an attack on the back line only to realize that there is no support for your center back. It’s why communication is key. It’s why you always see goalies screaming at their wall during a free kick, or the coach shouting out movements and making adjustments from the sidelines. Players have to move and adapt and work in sync. And one of the easiest ways to do that is through speech.

But that is not an option for the Deaf Women’s National Team. Their style of play and their intuitiveness with each other is something that you can’t just throw someone into. They have to work twice as hard to make it look just as easy as any other team would. Their kind of cohesiveness is a rare thing among teams. I mean, we get excited when we see a no-look pass in basketball, or when a midfielder lets the ball run onto the next attacker. But those players can call for the ball and their teammate is going to hear them. That is not the case here. These women have to know where each other are and act on instinct with regards to the collective whole. They move as one, and in silence.

Even though some of the women on the team can hear with the help of cochlear implants, any type of hearing aid or implant is not allowed in their competition. Everyone must succumb to total silence to give everyone an equal playing field.

But to watch their game tape, you wouldn’t know it. They are a well-oiled machine. So good, in fact, that the US Women have brought home the gold in the past three Deaflympics. And it’s why they continue to be a force when it comes to the Deaf World Football Championships, winning in both 2012 and 2016. But these wins and trophies don’t just come from hard work, but also on the back of adversity.

Let me be the first one to call a spade a spade – they could use funding and support. In 2009, the team traveled to Taipei, Taiwan to compete in the Summer Deaflympic games but did not have enough funding for a sign language interpreter to make the trip…they took home the gold anyway. Then, in 2012, the team went to Turkey to compete in the Deaf World Football Championships. This time, one of their main sponsors pulled out the week before they were set to compete and because of this they had no jerseys. This forced them to have to raise $10,000 in the span of 24 hours in order to wear the uniform that represented their country. They did. Then they brought home the gold.

Not that many people noticed. But still, these ladies persisted, and they fought, and damn it, they did it with class. They won the 2013 Deaflympics and then continued on to win the 2016 Deaf World Football Championships. But who congratulated them? Who stood up and took notice? Was it you? Because I’ll be honest, it wasn’t me, as much as I wish it were.

These women don’t just represent the United States of America, they represent the whole speech and hearing impaired community. They do things that would make any hearing athlete completely jealous and have formed a bond that goes deeper than just the locker room. These women represent something that matters, and often times that is lost in the sports world.

Sure, when a great athlete surpasses some long-standing record we stand up and cheer. We take notice. But take a team that ranges in age from mid-teens to early-thirties, that doesn’t have the luxury of playing as regularly and has to find alternative ways to fund their training camps, coaches, and travel? We’ll let them pass on by without even as much as a glance.

Luckily, some are beginning to take notice, though their publicity is still slow coming. The USDWNT just recently held their Summer Training Camp in Seattle and created a lot of positive media attention. They practice with the Seattle Reign to hone their skills even more, they celebrated Pride at the Seattle Storm’s WNBA game, and they got out there and did meet-and-greets with fans – signed autographs and showed who they were to this nation who has seemed to have always forgotten them.

But the coolest thing they did, by far, was play a match against the Seattle Sounders, a women’s soccer development team, where every fully hearing individual played with earplugs. The videos they posted were awesome and showed just how difficult it is to play without sound. And just by doing this, these women were able to not just show their strength, but brought awareness to a whole community.

Every time the USDWNT takes the field they don’t just do it for themselves. Heck, they have other jobs that actually pay them…and some of them are still even in high school. But they put on the uniform and they are elevated to a purpose that is higher than most athletes could even fathom. They are a proud team, and they have every right to be. They love the game, and they love who they are and what they represent.

So the question is, can we love them too?

It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or know someone that does. It doesn’t matter if you are connected to the speech and hearing impaired community, or if you are even a sports fan. The point of the matter is that these women play for America. They play for a community that gets shafted a lot of the time. They play for the love of the game and they play for a cause. And aren’t those reason’s enough to give them some support?

I thought it was. I thought it was more than enough reason. But if you are still on the fence then watch some of their game tape, or their player interviews. Go to their website and see what they are about. They are a team that could use your help, and your love, and your support.

Follow them on twitter – @USDeaf_WNT. Donate to their gofundme page. Or, you can be cool like me and buy a t-shirt from their etsy shop (I won’t lie, I am super pumped to rock it once it gets delivered). The point is to do something – to show them some love. You don’t necessarily even have to pay any money, just give them a shout-out on social media. Let them know that you see what they are doing, and you are appreciating the work they are putting in, and you are supporting them.

And you should support them. Not because they play with a disability, but because they are the best, and they play for you and for me, and for every girl who has ever been told she was different or that she couldn’t. Support them because even when you didn’t, they still wore that American Crest over their hearts and played for you…and won for you. Over and over again.