What makes a surfer’s day? Killer waves, a board, a suit… and a GoPro.
There’s a returning kickstarter that’s looking to connect the worlds of surfing, women and fans in a truly immersive, digital experience. Super Sessions is giving the world’s best female surfers opportunities to show their lives and sport to the world, and spark a conversation around why that’s important. The kickstarter’s goal is to gain $150,000 in funds that will go towards the GoPro project, the Super Sessions big-wave competition and the ability to give prizes to the top surfers.
Big-wave surfing is a traditionally male-dominated arena, which is what makes this project so fascinating. Super Sessions gives the community an ability to not only showcase their talents – but their lives as well. The beautiful and the ugly reality of women in sports. Through social media, the women are able to start conversations with fans and build a foundation that shows regardless of gender, big surf is exciting, challenging and so much fun. This years’ participants hail from Brazil, Ireland, and the US.
I got the chance to connect with a representative from Super Sessions, Shannon Marie Quirk. Pure stoke and love for the sport beamed through every one of her responses, showing the passion behind the project. Even just starting out, asking how her day was, she answered, “Awesome. Winter is here, the waves are pumping across the Pacific, and there’s huge momentum for female surfing. All is good.”
Here are a couple questions Shannon tackled on the topics of the Super Sessions Kickstarter, surfing and gender.
Why a female-only surf competition? Do you think women should also be allowed to compete in men’s surf championships?
Great question. Women have surfed their way into men’s contests in the past (Carissa Moore in the Triple Crown, Bethany Hamilton in Bali) but I’m not sure that’s really what women want or need. Mainstream sports like basketball and soccer have their own women’s league, so why not surfing? We are built differently, play upon different strengths in the water and on a board, so why not have a women’s competition? Hawaiian women have been surfing big waves since the sports’ inception. It’s nothing new. Just the introduction of a prize purse and recognition due to exposure is new for the ladies.
If we can crown a World Champion, it also helps legitimize the sport. Titles are important for progress and respect. If there can be a Men’s World Champ, sounds fair to crown a Women’s World Champ. There just haven’t been many opportunities to do so when there aren’t any competitions that invite the ladies. So we are taking it into our own hands in hopes of progressing and evolving the sport.
What’s the process like for surfers who want to participate? Is it a season run or a compilation of preliminaries? How can our readers get involved?
Thirteen women were invited to participate in the inaugural Super Sessions event that culminated at Maverick’s in December of 2014. They submitted videos all season of their big wave experiences and we were excited to tell the true story behind the missions and adventures. They are perfect for TV – dramatic, extreme, dangerous.
The idea for Super Sessions was to escape the old model of competition and embrace a new one that is digital and flexible with the tides. In a sense, it is a multimedia project in which waves can be filmed at different spots throughout the winter. The format is extremely interactive: there are live video chats with round table discussions, in which fans can submit questions to the surfers.
Fans can support by sharing the story of these women, telling their friends to support female sport, and watching their inspiring videos. It’s incredible what these ladies can accomplish with dedicated training and pure passion for the sport.
How many go-pros do your distribute?
All of the Super Sessions’ surfers were given a GoPro and an iPad to document their big wave adventures. We gave a bit of training on how to use the camera gear, upload, and post their edits on social media. Uniting with all the women in Half Moon Bay was hugely beneficial for them to realize the power they have to share their own story. It’s a new way of organic storytelling that I believe both younger and older generations are able to understand and appreciate.
Not to mention, it’s pretty exhilarating to see the point-of-view these athletes have on a 40 ft+ wave. And the fans get that view without having to risk their lives to capture it. We have had a few GoPro casualties, but for the most part they capture the action fairly easily without any intensive camera training.
Does working on a collaborative project in a competitive field affect the women’s comradery?
Women’s big wave surfing is still in its developing stages, competitively speaking. Sure, the gals are super competitive in the water (imagine being the only woman on a typical crowded freesurf day surrounded by wave-hungry men), but once we’re on land the girls are super close. Of course, the rookies tend to be intimidated by the top surfers and veterans, but I think that’s healthy. Everyone pushes each other to surf better and charge harder, train more.
Overall, coming together is the most important part for the sport’s development. The men have had so many chances to build comradery through their travels to epic surf spots and contest after contest. That’s how you build many friends, allies, and even rivalries. But many of the big wave women didn’t even know eachother before Super Sessions. There are so many unsponsored female surfers, and so many incredible big wave spots around the world, that we are still uncovering the stories of the big wave elite.
The Super Sessions athletes are all working women who pay their way to surf, not the other way around. We hope to change that.
Are you interested in showing raw surf footage, or do you also hope to show the joys (and struggles) of being a female in a male-dominated sport?
“Surf porn” as they say is usually only interesting to other surfers, limiting a huge demographic of potential fans. We want to share the personalities of the competitors, and let fans get to know them through their lifestyle videos. There is so much that goes into chasing a big swell – the behind-the-scenes is often more interesting than the action footage. The beauty about big wave surfing though is the action footage is so dramatic and heavy, that a non-surfer can respect the product: big wave, tiny person riding it. It’s a great recipe for television.
The struggles of being a woman in this arena are real. Just about every surf session, female surfers are greatly outnumbered, but for the most part there is a respect for big wave athletes – whether male or female. The big wave community is tight knit, and everyone is looking out for each other. Thankfully, many of the top big wave men are pushing for the Super Sessions to succeed, and want the ladies to have their time to shine.
What do you think is the most important thing for the surfers to get out of this project?
The evolution of the sport is key. We want women to be comfortable in the lineup, (and in big wave lineups its usually anything but comfortable) and what better way than to have other women to welcome you to the water. We hope to build community amongst the women of big wave surfing, while sharing their experiences with an audience. It is inspiring to see what women are capable of. We need to tell that story.
You can stay up-to-date with the kickstarter here.
Curious about Super Sessions? Check out their site here.
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