Sheri Crummer / Mary Mills

In the extremely white surf industry, and in the action sports industry as a whole, people of color are often excluded. This feeds the image of the stereotypical “surfer girl”, as a narrow image of a young, blonde, slim, beautiful and heterosexual girl, who’s only allowed to take up space as an objective for men to glace upon.
Surfsista and organizations like BrownGirlSurf are so very important in paving the road to diversity.


Sheri Crummer, USA

www.historyofwomensurfing.com

Sheri Crummer is a three-time U.S. Longboard Champion and a professional action sports photographer. Born and raised on the beaches of Southern California, she’s been surfing for over 50 years and the ocean is her lifeline. Other than action sports photography, landscape and social and political photography is her favorite subject matters.
Sheri is currently the Director of the History of Women’s Surfing Project and Secretary of The Inspire Initiative. All three of Sheris images were captured at a session in Oceanside, California, where The Surf Institute for Women had had a conference after which everyone of course went for a surf together.
Sheris photos has been published in various surfing and art magazines.
“I am not a woman of the norm. I realized at an early age I didn’t fit the mold of society. It’s been a struggle at times, but I believe in me and know that each and every one of us has much to share.”
When and why did you get in to photography?
“I was injured playing softball in the 1980s and wasn’t able to surf. My roommate had just about had enough of me not being in the water and handed me her camera. She told me to “Go do something!”  I went down to the harbor on the jetty and shot a roll of film of surfing. I realized when I saw the prints I had a knack for timing and that this was something I would be interested in doing. I went back to school and took classes in art and photography. I quit shooting for about 8 years as the passion had gone. The passion came back in the early 2000s and I haven’t stopped shooting.”
What made you get in to action, extreme or adventure sports?
“I like shooting surfing because I know the sport inside and out. Not only do I surf myself, but I've also been active as a competition judge of surfing for over 30 years. As a photographer I use all this knowledge to time my action shots. I also like to shoot baseball, skate and BMX, although I don’t shoot these sports as often as I shoot surf. Motion and movement in sports is exciting, and timing the movement for a shot is sometimes very challenging.”

 

What’s your worst/best/most intense moment related to action sports?
“I came close to drowning at Swami’s on a 10′-15′ day. Two wave hold down. Another time in the 1990s a group of us women were hanging out by the car, chilling in-between heats in Malibu, when a female competitor walked up to us and started yelling and screaming for all the lesbians to get out of here, saying that we weren’t wanted. Pretty ugly.
My best moments are when I’m riding a wave and can’t remember what I did. That's how I know it was good? just the pure feeling of being one with the wave.”

 

What/Who is you favorite initiative, project, professional, leader, athlete or brand in the action sports sphere?
The Inspire Initiative: This is a change in the attitude and new directions for women.”

 

What do you think of the lack of role models for girls and women in male dominated areas?
“People, not only in sports, but in general tend to be sheep; They’re afraid to step out of the box for fear of losing something. This is most evident in the action sports industry. There are more women now stepping up to the plate to give another way of doing things.  This is promising.”

 

How do you see women evolving in the action sports scene?
“There is a shift of consciousness from middle school to high school; I see the middle school kids free and having fun, but ss they get older the peer pressure and society stifles their freedom. A new direction for them seems to be in order, letting them know it’s ok to be themselves.”

 

What are your hopes for the future of the industry?
“My hope is that the women can come into their own and be who they are – not what the industry wants them to be to sell products. That the industry will recognize the women for their athleticism and stop with the sexualization.”
What is the number one preconception or prejudice people have about you?
“I was offered a clothing sponsorship in the 1980s. Two female team riders told the company I was gay.  I never heard back from the company.  The interesting part of this is that one of the two women now has a female partner.”

 

Do you have a feature or body part that you have been self-conscious about? Do you think low self-esteem in girls and stereotypes in media are connected?
“I absolutely feel the stereotypes in media are connected to this. The up and coming girls want to be pro surfers and also try to fit the mold that the industry has created. I do see a shift in some of the parents and girls though. As long as the conversations are ongoing the shift will continue.
I’m fine with my own body. It’s mine. The only thing that bothers me is the wrinkles, but hey, it's what happens when you get to be my age.”

 

Is there a difference in how women and men are portrayed in the action sports industry?
“The men can be anything they want, from clean cut to unkempt and their athleticism is still highlighted. Women are portrayed as sex objects to sell products, and their athleticism is not even necessary, to a degree.”

 

What would you say to people who want to get in to action sports, but think they might not fit in?
“Just do it. Be yourself and love the sport you do.”
 

 

Mary Mills. Mary is a surfer from California. She goes by the name of SurfSista. The day I shot this she decided to ride waves on a raft. Mary will ride anything on a wave.