Girls Can’t Surf is everything you want it to be. It’s a fantastic story of feminism that is empowering, historically correct, humorous and confronting.
Directed by Christopher Nelius Girls Can’t Surf follows a band of determined and rebellious female surfers as they compete each year for a world title, struggle for equality in the sport and discover adulthood. Set between the 70s and going through to the 2000s, the film uses a mix of original footage and interview cuts to illustrate the stories of surfing greats including Jodie Cooper, Frieda Zamba, Pauline Menczer, Lisa Anderson, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha, Layne Beachley and more. The female surfers are forced to make a living out of a sport that is male dominated with seemingly no acceptance or respect for the female athletes.
Nelius’ direction of the film is well done, smoothly following a story told through a combination of story retelling and original footage. I especially adored the 80s and 90s style graphics that were included in the film, taking me back to days of watching soapy teenage surf dramas. Set fittingly to a musical score of 80s and 90s disco, funk beats, it paired well with the storyline but occasionally distracted the focus from the film’s ideas.
The surfing leads of the film create a captivating and empowering story. They allow themselves to be vulnerable in the most entertaining way, reminiscing on their pasts with laughter, nostalgia and pride. However, the film seems to merely scrape the surface on some of the real underlying issues within the true story. Some particular battles faced along the way in terms of sexism, homophobia and eating disorders are perhaps not delved into as far as what they should have been.
The movie describes on multiple occasions how these women felt as if they were taking two steps forward one step back. In my opinion, delving deeper into the issues for women in sport would have been the move in making sure we aren’t taking steps back again.
Girls Can’t Surf is a great choice to watch with the family including early and older teens. Baby Boomers and Gen X will watch in delight, seeing original footage from an era in Australia of many changes, conflicts and excitement. School groups would absolutely benefit from watching the film as education of women in sport.
Overall Girls Can’t Surf is a story told that the world needs to hear. I delighted in hearing each woman’s story and perspective and how rather than using actors they managed to compose it through mostly original footage. The musical score, film composition and design graphics all paired together created a fascinating tale of girls who absolutely CAN surf!
Written by Hayley Sutter for Eventalaide