we have many internet and subway surfers but what about the real deal-The real sport of riding the surf? Women rarely participate in this sport due to various reasons, many of them historic. German movie maker, Dörthe Eickelberg, has stepped forward to showcase how women across the world are surfing the waves to break the glass ceiling, and cracking glass walls with their grit and determination! Karnataka Today’s Rajat Rao met her during the filming of her documentary ‘Chicks on Boards’ at Mulki last month and discussed this phenomenon with her…
Dörthe Eickelberg, a German film maker has taken her pet theme of women empowerment forward with her documentary “Chicks on Boards”, in which she has worked on showing how girls from different countries break the stereotype of surfing being a “rich blonde hair, white person” sport. She says she aims at showing how the women living on the coast can enjoy the freedom of having all the fun they want, while considering it a sport on its own.
The documentary focuses on the active participation of girls and women in the surfing cult. “For many, surfing is just another sport but I see it as a liberation movement by all who practice it.‘Chicks on Boards’ portrays the expression of freedom through surfing. I am working on delivering a story about women empowerment through participation in surfing as a liberation movement”, Dörthe says.
It is to be noted that there are only seven female surfers among the 200 odd surfers in India. When the Mulki Surf Club started in 2009, there was not even one female surfer. But in course of time quite a few girls joined the club and made it to the top not only at the national but also Asian level. Three surfer girls from Mulki, Aneesha Nayak, Sinchana Gowda and TanviJagadeesh won prizes on a major scale and they haven’t looked back since.
Surfing and feminism – opposites?
As Dörthe observed, several countries which have a laid back attitude towards empowering women had historically assigned certain roles to the female genderwhich they had to confine themselves to. In many families all over the world, women are expected to stay home and engage in household activities and bear and nurture children. In most cases, men do not directly indulge in “keeping women within four walls of the home” but the latter confine themselves either fearing a negative reaction from society or having imbibed deeply the unspoken rules of the game.
“If women are taught to stick to their ‘duties’ by their counterparts in the household, there will be limited options for the budding talents in the girl child to break free. It will take extra courage from their side to break the stereotype of homely girls. The young girls must question this tradition and try another path to achieve glory. Blaming culture and habits is just an excuse to get away from the pressures of society”, Dorthe claimed.
“Feminism is not about women being better than men, but a fair chance to see women on par with men. Inequality and discrimination between the genders can be boiled down to the lack of education among the older generation and by getting wrapped up by the fear of society”, she added.
When the first dark skinned African female surfer came into limelight, all stereotypes were broken by her and a different level of equality between the sexes was born. The overall view of people towards surfer girls changed over time.
Challenges for Surfers in India
“In several parts of India, the tight fitting surf wear got the locals enraged as they thought the girls were ‘revealing’ parts of their body. This is exactly the way of thinking that needs to change and it can be brought about by education and strength of accepting that the surf wear is meant for the sport and not to reveal the physique of the woman”, Dörthe noted.
“Surfing as a hobby starts from the people living in the coast. More participation from the fisher folk is a necessity since they are the ones who best know the coast. The fisher folk and locals must get together and take up surfing as a hobby to promote the sport among the youth and the girl children”, said Dörthe while speaking about introducing surfing as a hobby to the locals.
“Also, the gap between the rich and poor in India is the same as that in several parts of Africa and Guinea. Opening more surf schools will enhance the ability of local village kids to try out surfing and make it a way of life to kick boredom off”, she added on the same note.
For instance, there were several initiatives taken by the surfers from Canada and USA on the coast of Kerala where they offered free surfing lessons to those who helped them clean the shores.
Sea is home, not threat
“The value of the ocean is to be imbibed by the people of the coast. A positive approach while entering the sea makes a difference rather than considering the sea, a threat to life. Love for the water starts when people appreciate the ocean and its power. The value of the ocean is not hard to realize when we treat the ocean as our own home by maintaining cleanliness and be cautious when necessary”, she reiterated.
Lifesaving and doing our bit for to preserve the cleanliness of the beach is a must before venturing into the waters to surf. Respect for the beach is important, Dorthe avers. “Though the sea is strong, we must learn how to be protected from the forces to have happy surfing experiences”, Dörthe said.
‘Chicks on Boards’ worldwide telecast
The liberation movement of girls through surfing is being shot by Dorthe at various other countries as well under the rather modern sounding title “Chicks on Boards”. The sequences of the documentary will showcase surfing as a lifestyle that liberates more than a sport.
Apart from sending the whole documentary to various film festivals all over the world, Dorthe will also have the documentary televised in Europe.
Five episodes of 26 minutes each will be televised on ‘Arte’, a Franco-German TV network and two episodes of 45 minutes each will be televised on German broadcasting institution, West Deutscher Rundfunk (WDR). Hopefully we will get to see it in India too, if not, surely it will be available on www.facebook.com/chicksonboards in due course.
(This article was published in the recent issue of Karnataka Today Magazine)
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