We first attended the Swatch Girls Pro back in 2011. Nike's Leave a Message had just dropped and women's surfing was boiling over. A new generation was taking the world by storm and the enthusiasm was tangible. Hurrah! You could taste change in the air. The women were being taken as seriously as the men and it was all people wanted to talk about.
Two years later how has the conversation moved on? We caught up with Europe's current World Tour hope, Pauline Ado for an insight. She'd lost her heat two days previously and was dutifully slogging through media commitments despite probably just wanting to get the hell out of Dodge. We found her to be straight talking, considered and devoid of cliche.
When I lose I am really frustrated, it takes a little time to digest, and after a while I step back and think, I've done good things before this year.
"I didn't want to lose in the first round" She told us. Pauline's in good form, coming off a pair of thirds, including the US Open. When asked how she picks herself up after a fall? Pauline replied, "When I lose I am really frustrated, it takes a little time to digest, and after a while I step back and think, I've done good things before this year. There are more events to come and I've been surfing better that last year and before that. Those are the things I tell myself."
Some coach, some don't. How do you approach the improvement process? "The thing I tell myself the most is I have to surprise the judges." She says "You have to find new turns, to hit it stronger and faster. I guess that's what had been lacking a little bit in my surfing to get those higher scores. If you surf this way then you can turn a 6 into an 8."
And this is a conscious decision? To hit this coming lip harder? "Yes. I think: right now I am going to push this turn more strongly than before. But sometimes you do it and you fall. So it's always good to have someone watching you surf who can help you analyse and realise what you did wrong with a shoulder, or an arm, and how to correct it. Sometimes it is just, erm, your state of mind. When you train you can just fall, who cares. But in heat it matters."
Who do you look to in female surfing? "Steph obviously, for many years. I love her style, just her attitude in competition, it's kinda scary. [laughter] How does she do it? She reads the wave so well, it's amazing."
I think right now there's a little too much of a sexy part sometimes. And I think we need to play this part. But we need to keep it like ... how do you say? In French we call it class.
Wanting to explore how she felt about the media's presentation of female surfing, I asked Pauline what she would like to see as a response to female surfing?
"I think right now there's a little too much of a sexy part sometimes. And I think we need to play this part. But we need to keep it like ... how do you say? In French we call it class. Sometimes the boundaries are a bit too far. We are athletes you know, and being an athlete is sexy. I think there are ways to present things and sometimes it is a little too much."
At the risk of leading the conversation I relayed an anecdote from another surfer I'd spoken to the previous night, one who had worked hard in bar, saving money to afford get to the event. She had given up trying to find a sponsor, as in her abbreviated words: 'companies only wants to sponsor models'. Pauline replied "I think that is sad for girls. For guys it doesn't matter, it only matters what results you get, how good you are, or how big you surf. For us, you have to try and play every part. If you are not a model you have to try and find a way to get noticed."
So getting it all out on Instagram is worth more than results? At this point I realise I've drawn Pauline down a path where I am drumming my own beat of leading questions. But gamely I press on. "That's an insane situation". I say. "Yeah. I don't like it either" agrees Pauline.
I then ask if she believes getting it all out on Instagram is just a trend? Is there a scenario in which over-exposure could reverse and become deeply unfashionable? "It could." She replies. "I just hope, like I said, that we'll find the boundaries. I guess it makes people talk about women's surfing, but not, maybe, in the best way. I hope we will find the boundaries and be back to a classy way of representation."
In the surfing world we are all wondering what the Tour in 2014 will bring. Having heard rumours that ZoSea were really interested in elevating the female side of the tour, I asked what the talk had been, and what might next year might look? "I don't quite know." Replied Pauline. "They (ZoSea) are really into women’s surfing and have been really supportive. We've had a few meetings and they are like, We want the best for you guys, the best waves and show how well you can surf. It's been really positive and I think they will use the attractive image of women's surfing, from what they say, I think they will push the athletic element."
Having heard rumours that ZoSea were really interested in elevating the female side of the tour, I asked what the talk had been, and what might next year might look? “I don’t quite know.” Replied Pauline. “They are really into women’s surfing, they have been really supportive..."
ZoSea have thus far been somewhat of an opaque organisation, so I asked when that communication occurred? "At World Tour events they talk to us. It's Dave (Prodan) and then the new team, Paul Speaker too." Said Pauline.
And what do the women think of the new organisation, I ask? "It's new and hard to say because it hasn't started yet." Pauline replies. "I believe what I see, but from what they say, it should be pretty cool. And we are all thinking that this has never happened before in this exact manner." It seems interesting and I ask if the communication was more hands-off previously? "Oh no, they used to talk to us, but not like this." Replies Pauline. "Maybe because it is all new, but it is exciting." So the vibe on the Tour is positive? "Yeah for sure, the girls can't wait to see what's going to happen."
Leaving only one question. Will she be on tour next season and how does Pauline feel with two events left? "I'm in 10th now, kinda the hotspot, you know. I was in a pretty bad situation before Huntington and I got a good results and am back in the qualification bubble. My goal will be to get results in the last events in Europe."
The Women's Tour, if you didn't know will be sharing the Quik Pro France venue with the men after the Roxy Pro was cancelled. Is she looking forward to it? "Yeah for sure. It was pretty hard in Biarritz for the Roxy Pro, you could see with the forecast it was going to be flat." We were doing the forecast for that I add. "Yeah I know." Pauline replies "Everyone was freaking out. You don't want to surf a World Tour event in 1ft waves."
Could you surf a longboard in a Tour heat I ask, if you wanted to? "No, I don't think so. [laughs] You'd have to check the rule book. I was thinking, damn, this is my home event and it's not going to happen. Then on the last day we got the surprise that they were going to do the event in September."
I ask if they will be surfing La Graviere like last year? "I guess it will be mobile, if La Graviere gets good I'm there. At 8 to 10ft it would be challenging, but we'll be out there if it's on. If it's a perfect day it could be really exciting to see what the girls can do. A lot of girls are really good tube riders. It will be different for sure from all the waves we have on Tour."