Surfer Lauren Hill wants to change the way we look at female athletes

Lauren Hill is no stranger to defying what is seen as “standard” representation of women in the surfing industry. If you need an example, her recently released short film, “Pear Shaped,” examines the expectations and demands that women are forced to deal with on a daily basis, taking a satirical snapshot of the industry as a whole.

Lauren Hill on women in surfing: “When you don’t see yourself, or your experience of surfing, represented authentically in your media, it’s easy to feel really disconnected from the culture, like an outsider.” Photo: Courtesy of Sanuk

Hill says the original inspiration for the video came from an Instagram post from last year. “Mostly, I was wondering: Is it just me who has come in from a surf only to find I'd bled all over my white bikini bottoms? Am I the only one? Turns out, I’m not.

“It was hilarious. Each of the scenes in ‘Pear Shaped’ is based on one, or a compilation of, moments from that post.”

What started as a simple inquiry into the minds of fellow surfers blossomed into “Pear Shaped,” and with help from Hill’s sponsor Sanuk, the project is now complete.

(Warning: Brief nudity)

GrindTV recently spoke to Hill about what the project means to her.

What has the response been to the video?
Surprisingly, overwhelming positive, which has been such a confirmation of how ready people are for fresh perspectives on women’s surf.

The most gratifying feedback I’ve had about “Pear Shaped” has come from dads of young girls or teenagers. I’ve gotten a bunch of emails and messages from dads who are just freaked out by the way most women are portrayed in surf culture, and by the pressure for young girls to sexualize themselves from such an early age – and how our culture normalizes this behavior for boys and men to consume.

Anyway, these dads were stoked to see “Pear Shaped” so they could show their girls that they aren’t freaks because they aren’t “perfect” and that being a surfer can be a complicated, but humorous, affair.

Which surfers inspire you in terms of their emphasis on equality?
Women like Leah Dawson, Kassia Meador, Cori Schumacher or Amanda Chinchelli. Their work isn’t necessarily overtly about equality; they’re just staying true to their vision and celebrating other women in the process.

I also love seeing all of the women who are just subverting the mainstream and really crafting culture — magazines, art, music, film, fashion — for themselves.

A post shared by Lauren L. Hill (@theseakin) on

What else do you have in mind to help break down the stigma of being a female surfer?
Hyper-sexualization isn’t so healthy or accurate, but neither is neutering women. Striking the balance means diversifying imagery. Everyone has to find a place where they feel comfortable and empowered, and I think that having directed conversation with others about the nitty-gritty of these issues can go a long way.

And I think the brands should be sincerely entertaining these conversations too — for example, what messages they are conveying when they market with sexualized images of 15- or 16-year-olds. How we can convey the sensuality of women’s surfing without defaulting to the sexual.

More on women in surf from GrindTV

Bethany Hamilton once again named wildcard for Fiji Women’s Pro

’17 Summer Gear Guide: Best in Women’s Surf

Big Wave Women’s Champ Paige Alms’ message to women