Confidence, wetsuits, and anonymity

Darcy Roland (14)

Confidence, I’ve discovered, is one of the common challenges women have with surfing.  For each person it varies a bit, ranging from paddling out back, looking stupid, or being in bigger surf.

Me, I’m one of those people who confidence was not so much an issue.  I tend to err on the side of overconfident.  Which makes me a stubborn ass sometimes.  That stubbornness is one of the reasons I stuck with surfing.  It is a damn hard sport.  Progress is slow and success is fleeting.  It took years to become a competent surfer.

As I’ve continued surfing, I get to now ponder questions like why do you hear about confidence as an issue for women and not for men?  Is it (warning generalization coming) because women are more honest and admit their fear while men are more likely to fake their confidence?  While there might be something there, I wonder about how much visibility plays a part in the confidence issue.  What I mean by that, I am blessed (and some may say cursed) to be a New England surfer.  This means that a majority of the year we are wearing wetsuits, 5mm wetsuits.  It is not uncommon to be deep into May before we finally get brave enough to take off the booties and mittens.  When anyone is wearing that much neoprene, they look a bit like a bloated seal.  It is highly unattractive and it means everyone looks like a neoprene blob floating on a board.

With everyone donning a wetsuit, it offers some anonymity.  You can barely recognize people you do know.  And because winter wetsuits lack the flare that spring and summer suits offer women, it is difficult to pick out the gender of a surfer.

So it makes me wonder, is part of the confidence issue centered on looking a certain way in the water?  Wearing a swimsuit that is comfortable and makes you feel attractive while also not slipping out of place while surfing is not an easy feat.  And spring and summer wetsuits can have a spotlight affect especially if they are made to be pretty and standout.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love suits with color and bling.)

Would women feel different if you were allowed to hide in the lineup and just be a surfer who has the intestinal fortitude to be out in the elements?  Yes, you still have to deal with your demons but perhaps it would strip away some of the elements of surfing that don’t matter as much to let you focus on what does matter, getting out and riding waves.

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