A former British surfing champion has ditched her bikini for a wetsuit after condemning her sport as ‘hyper-sexualised’.
Sophie Hellyer, a former British champion, said that as a top surfer she felt like a ‘a glorified bikini model’ and hit out at the impractical nature of bikinis in sport.
The 30-year-old, from Westward Ho!, Devon, said: ‘I don’t want to bad mouth anyone for surfing in a thong, surf in whatever you want.
Top British surfer Sophie Hellyer, 30, has ditched her bikini for a wetsuit after condemning her sport as ‘hyper-sexualised’. She hit out at the impractical nature of the clothing for sports and claimed since wearing a full wetsuit in competitions she has received less magazine coverage
‘I just want to see a fairer representation of the actual female surfing community, wetsuit hoods and all.
‘I personally don’t like surfing in bikinis, its impractical – they come down all the time, I get sunburn, slip off from sun cream and always cut myself on the reef.’
Miss Hellyer, who hasn’t competed in a decade, went on: ‘The subject of hyper-sexualisation in surfing is especially interesting for me as I have been on both sides of the debate.
Miss Hellyer said that as a champion surfer she felt like a ‘a glorified bikini model’ and would often cut herself on the reef when not wearing the 5mm neoprene suits. The 30-year-old Brit from Westward Ho!, Devon, who surfs on a pink board, said she was taking a feminist stand
Miss Hellyer said: ‘I personally don’t like surfing in bikinis, its impractical – they come down all the time, I get sunburn, slip off from sun cream and always cut myself on the reef’. She’s travelled the world as a surfer and model for brands like Toyota, Hunter Boots and Finisterre
‘I have modelled in countless bikini photo-shoots and I have shouted feminism from the rooftops. I don’t believe I have to stop riding a pink surfboard just because I believe in equal pay.’
She added that since changing her kit she found she was enjoying less coverage in surfing magazines.
Miss Hellyer asked: ‘Is that linked? Probably. When was the last time you saw a woman in a full wetsuit in a surf mag?
Since donning only wetsuits in competitions, Miss Hellyer claims she’s received far less magazine coverage, with photographers opting to capture women in skimpy outfits instead of her. She asked: ‘When was the last time you saw a woman in a full wetsuit in a surf magazine?’
‘I wish it weren’t a big deal, but it does need to be talked about.
‘Regardless of whether it’s the right decision, I’m glad its opened up the conversation.’
The surfer has travelled the world riding waves and modelling for brands including Toyota, Hunter Boots and Finisterre – often wearing skimpy bikinis.
The issue of the portrayal of women in this sport came under the spotlight recently when photographers and videographers on the World Surf League (WSL) tours were told not to zoom in on female competitors wearing skimpy bikinis for fears over sexism claims
‘The main thing is, I hope the women support each other and stick together,’ she said.
‘I wish what the women were surfing in was irrelevant. These are beautiful, strong, skilled women who are positive role models for many – let’s celebrate them for that.
‘If they choose to surf in a bikini or leggings or one piece, should all be irrelevant.’
In her original blog post on the subject, Miss Hellyer said: ‘I support professional female surfers who are pushing for an end to the over-sexualised surfing culture but it is a daunting thing to speak up about’
Not all agreed with Ms Hellyer though, Carly Truss, of SurfGirl magazine told The Times: ‘In the office, surrounded by the industry, surf brand, surf clothing, riders, surf articles I have not once experienced a sexualised take on the industry.
‘We talk about the sport itself, the conditions, the waves, the riders, passion for the industry. Not whether they are wearing a bikini or not.’
In Miss Hellyer’s original blog post on the issue, she said: ‘I don’t believe I have to stop riding a pink surfboard just because I believe in equal pay,’ and added ‘I support professional female surfers who are pushing for an end to the over-sexualised surfing culture but it is a daunting thing to speak up about.’
However, in a more recent blog post she sought to clarify her original statements and said: ‘I was discussing the over sexualisation of female surfers, and the imbalance and objectification I have experienced.
‘I think it its important we overcome this unconscious bias and move away from this potentially damaging archetype of female surfers, as it is unhealthy for everyone.’