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Body issue? What body issue?

Should looks be celebrated over skill? it was announced last week that Coco Ho was to become the fourth female surfer to star in the famous, naked flesh-fest that is ESPN Magazine's 'The Body Issue'. She joins Stephanie Gilmore, Maya Gabeira, and Claire Bevilacqua whom have all got their kit off for the Body Issue. By contrast Kelly Slater is the only male ASP surfer to have been called up, despite there being more than twice as many male surfers on the tour at any one time, strange that.

There's been an explosion of new opportunities in surfing in general and women's surfing in particular at the moment. However I want to look at an opportunity that may be missed by an industry that has its priorities wrong.

The importance of the body image in female surfing is a big challenge that has long faced upcoming surfers. It seems that Girl Surf Network and other groups like it have arrived just in time to help young girls deal with this trouble.

It's a worldwide problem that affects surfing no more or less than it does anything else. The sport provides a chance to have a great time on the one hand and a chance to train, compete and try to become the best on the other hand. These are great opportunities that are rightly thrown open to men and women alike. However surfing also provides brands with the opportunity to pick out and selectively sponsor women, and men, it should be said, who might look better in a swimming costume rather than in a competition. It does happen to men, but in a world where women are sexualised much more often than men, it's a female problem.

When she was laying out the aims of the Girl Surf Network Kim Eulenstein, it's founder and athlete manager, told The Sydney Morning Herald: "You don't need to be a bikini model to be a successful female surfer, you can surf any board you like. Our market is any female who enjoys surfing."

Projects like these that focus on getting girls surfing for surfing's sake, on helping them to hone their skills and finally on getting them recognised for the value of their skills rather than anything else.

There's a lot of good work going into motivating women to take up surfing, but this is made much harder by the focus on looks and sexualisation that The Body Issue embodies (pun not intended). The issue of sexualisation is a huge one being dealt with by people a lot smarter than me so I'm not going to preach, I'll just say when I watch the pros surf I watch their moves.

Images Courtesy: Girl Surf Network (GSN)

Writer: Jamie Smith