Imagine for a second that you are a professional surfer, you’ve travelled over 30 hours and half way round the world. You have 25 or 30 minutes to make it through your heat, lose and you may not even make enough money to break even on your accommodation. Welcome to the world of a professional female surfer.
The World Surf League’s qualifying series is called the World Qualifying series or the WQS as it’s known takes surfers all around the world chasing enough points to qualify for the World Championship Tour, the WCT or for the WCT surfers to requalify if they drop out of the Top 10. Some years it can mean only to or three surfers will graduate from the WQS to the WCT.
Prizemoney on the WQS is good if you’re winning but takeout all the expenses such as flights, accommodation and food, then you need to be winning but what if you’re lower on the rankings and can not get into a WQS 6000 event then you may have to work your way up through the WQS 1000 events.
A good idea is to team up with other surfers and share the load as sponsorship dollars only go so far, they are more likely to recieve boards and equipment.
A great example of this is Dominic Barona, Melanie Guinta, Silvana Lima and Luchy Cosoleto. These girls travel together and not only share expenses but give support for each other. Having this support is vital and they all want each other to win. If one of the girls bow out of the event, they turn up and support the ones still surfing. It’s a sytem that I have witnessed firsthand.
It’s no doubt the girls are colourful, loud and passionate. Could the Australian girls learn from the South American girls and is this is what makes the South American girls such a force in professional surfing.
I think this support of each other helps celebrate the wins and makes loses easier to bear.
The development on women’s surfing in Australia is helped by the number of WQS events and the rating attached to those events, but which is better?
Having both events available are equally important.
The QS6000 events bring the top WCT and WQS surfers to your local beach. The points are highly valuable and can determine who chases the world title the following year.
The surfing is amazing and it brings an international feel to the event.
The best example of this is Surfest, which is held each year at Merewether Beach in the month of February.
Due to funding and sponsorship the women’s event at Surfest dropped back to a QS1000 event in 2015. The benefit of having this rating meant that we got to see up and coming young surfers with lower rankings compete against some great international surfers.
Surfers like Sophia Bernard, The Greene sisters Mikaela & Eliza, Ellie Brooks and Alyssa Lock got a chance to shine and advance their competitive skills in this QS1000 event.
The benefit from to surfing in Australia is all these young ladies have progressed in the sport, we hope this was due to having events that increased their rankings which then allowed them to tackle QS6000 events.
Move forward to 2016 and Surfest became a QS6000 event and continues to be till this day due to crowdfunding.
A bigger international field is great for young frothing groms, good for increased sponsorship and exposure.
A QS6000 event helps our young aussie girls like Macy Callaghan and Philippa Anderson edge closer to the WCT, a reward for the hard yards.
Towards the end of the year the lower ranked surfers on the WCT, need to hit the WQS events to make sure the requalify for the WCT. This will be evident at the QS6000 Port Stephens Toyota Classic.
This event might not have the same impact, if it were a QS1000 event, however go back a week and Phillip Island will hold a QS1000 event, both important for the surfers competing.
As a photographer I like the first two rounds of a women’s event where you see the top players rested while the up and coming surfers battle to compete against the elite.
It’s hard to deny the excitement of seeing the best surfers competing against each other in the QS6000 events but the QS1000 events showcase much of the development work done by Surfing Australia with our young surfers.
Many times in life I refer back to my old school motta of Knowledge is Power. This works well with surfboards but does the average surfer know what works when it comes to surfboards? What about the pro’s, do they know what they’re riding?
As a surfboard shaper I’m always interested in what surfers are riding but was really surprised that many WQS surfers don’t have a lot of input into their equipment.
Obviously it’s hard to step outside the square, many say that if Cheyne Horan rode thrusters then he would have been a world champion but he was never afraid to experiment.
A common answer to questions about boards tends to get an answer of, “I’m not sure, it’s what my shaper gave me”.
This could be a two part problem. The surfers don’t get the opportunity to get in the bay with their shaper or their own lack the knowledge to tell the shaper what they need.
Now i’m hardly shouting, “You know nothing Jon Snow”, but would more knowledge of board design help out everyone in the surf, even our WQS surfers?
Most WQS surfers may only get a few boards a year so it’s important to have something that works in most conditions.
It’s easy then to see why the majority of girls ride the square tail, they add stability and the corners of the square dig into the wave whilst turning and help increase the ability of the board to make pivotal turns.
But there are more options
The rounded sqare is the forgotten cousin of the square tail. Sure they are still on good terms but the rounded square can’t help be jealous. The rounded tail allows water to wrap around the contour of the tail and gives better traction in bigger, faster, hollower and more powerful waves. They tend to be looser, can draw out nice long turns but may not create sharper turns. I always feel they are very forgiving. They do add more surface area to the back of the board which can create more speed in slow spots on the wave.
Maybe the WQS surfers don’t need a rounded pin but the average female could use that extra tail volume and ease of turning, the shape of the rail and the shape of the tail do most of the work when it’s cutack time.
Channels are another great option. Your glasser and sander will disagree and after shaping a few I can see why. They take more time to make, more time to glass and are great fun to sand, said no one ever. Maybe channels are another story for another day.
The WQS tour is a battlefield and an all round board that works in all conditions is of great benefit.
Now is a great time to bug your shaper and try something different, you never know, you might be surprised.
You’ll find me in the shaping bay working on a rounded pin with belly channels.
I have a confession to make.
I have told my dark secret to several other surf photographers and some secretly agree with me. I prefer shooting women’s competitive surfing. I prefer shooting it over men’s.
So perhaps I should explain my self now that it’s all out in the open.
I have been shooting competitive surfing for around 4 years and have had the opportunity to shoot both men’s and women’s competitions, mainly WQS events.
One day when I was going through the 2000 shots I had taken during the day, and found that many of the men’s shots were similar and repetitive.
I have found that women’s surfing has retained it’s individuality and each competitor has their own style.
Women’s surfing relies less on raw power, it has a higher degree of finesse and has retained more of the old school feel.
Looking at any female surfer of the WCT and you’ll see turns where the rail is held throughout the turn but this isn’t just for the pro’s.
If you look at the likes of Claire Bevilacqua and Holly Wawn on the WQS then you’ll see power surfing but dig deeper in the WQS Rankings and you’ll find many young ladies who have similar power but have great individual style. Ones that come to mind are Dominic Barona and Holly Wawn.
Perhaps my love of women’s surfing comes from my appreciation of tighter turns in the pocket, solid bottom turns and a good round house cutback but the girls are making better use of manoeuvres like tail slides and quick snaps.
I think women’s surfing has a long road ahead and I don’t mean that in a bad way. More stand alone events, better conditions and an increase in WCT spots are steps in the right direction to the ultimate goal, getting more girls in the water, loving the sport that connects them with nature in it’s purest form.
Upon seeing Macy Callahgan surf for the first time in 2014, it was evident that this young lady was a star on the rise.
It was immediately apparent that Callaghan feared no one in the water and set about tactically dismantling her opposition bit by bit, and at this point it was easy to be in awe of her natural talent.
Macy comes from a good supportive family, something crucial for an athlete these days, specially in a sport which has consistent travel. To talk to this young woman you find her polite, respectful and well grounded.
Callaghan however does most of her talking in the water, although shouting is probably a more accurate statement.
The finish of the 2016 WQS Tour, saw her finish just outside the qualification mark for the elite WCT Tour but you can’t help to think this was a good thing.
Another year on the WQS Tour will allow her to refine the skills needed to compete at the elite level. Another year will see her body get stronger and her mental game will go to the next level.
The WCT Tour is a tough place, lose a heat or two and the mind games can easily begin.
2017 has seen Callaghan storming through the early WQS 1000 events with two wins and a second but it is the WQS 6000 events that she will need to make her mark.
A strong finish at the Anditi Womens Pro in Newcastle was followed by an early exit at the Australian Open of Surfing in Manly.
The early exit at Manly could easily be due to battled fatigue, after grinding out multiple events in a few months.
It’s time the world body of surfing, the WSL give Callaghan a wild card into WCT events. I’m not knocking the likes of Bethany Hamilton getting a wild card or two but it’s time for the WSL to invest in the future, the surfers who are ready and this is Macy to a tee.
I’m excited to continue following the Callaghan journey, a diamond that has been finely polished and is ready to shine.