Surfing is for Women…And Maybe Boys Too

Words and Photos:: Alenka Mali

The first day, back in the water, was like a fix that my body had been craving for days. Pumping blood, the focused look in my eyes and a crazy smile that I wasn’t even trying to hide anymore.

I thought oh no, I’m an addict.


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left break at Uluwatu beach, Bali
Orlando from Panama, left break at Uluwatu beach, Bali

The polluted water in Bali caused my ear infection. I had to shut down something very dear to my heart for almost two weeks, because of how dirty the ocean surrounding the Island of Gods gets, after the rainfall. While for normal people of our society, two weeks without paddling out might not seem a lot, for a surfer that’s a lifetime. Especially, living in a place where surf reports with 12ft waves, a tight community of like-minded addicted people and cafes, filled with the same topic conversations present a big part of everyday’s life. Not to mention, missing a contest I’ve spent a lot of time preparing for.

I shut myself down, wasn’t inspired to carry on with my work and depression kicked in, fast. Safe to say that my heart was aching for a day when I can finally zinc my face and carelessly paddle out again.


Surfing a break in Bali
Paradise for a surfer.

Time for that came as everything does. Every wave sprung something in my blood that hit my brain with a radiant dose of dopamine and I was back. One of the longest and most satisfying sessions of my life happened on a regular day, with waves being smaller than usual and a big line up that we had to elbow our way through the crowd. There’s only a handful of moments like that in your life and so far, this was one of them. All I wanted was to stay in there forever. 

Uluwatu has held the title of the prime surfing spot in Bali, ever since surfers started to populate this island. Yet still, it isn’t very common to spot a girl surfer in the lineup.

Only a female surfer knows the feeling of how intimidating it is to drop in the wave with a line-up full of guys. Takes a lot more confidence than it might seem for some people. Growing up in sports that have been mostly dominated by men, I sort of picked it up and got used to it. Climbing, snowboarding, and surfing have been making me smile my whole life, but until recently, I haven’t entirely noticed how minor the female portion of the scene is when you think about it. 


Surf break and line up in Bali
Just a bunch of boys filling up the lineups in Bali.

The ocean is a great teacher. Very humbling, yet confidence boosting. Empowering, I have to say, especially for women. When we accepted the fact that waves hold all the power and dropped the need to control everything, is when we had fun without having the urge to prove something. For such a competitive and selfish sport, surfing can be very grounding, allowing us to move to the sounds of our own rhythm and turn in the style that we’ve been shaping for years of our days in the water.

And for a woman, that is a very powerful state to be in. Confident, humble, inspired and supported. Most of all, grounded and connected to the magical element of water. From duck diving the massive sets, to cross stepping on our longboard, either way you look at it, this sport brings an individual to form her personal style, more than anything. My heart sings when I see another girl shredding the home break, leaving a line-up full of surprised guys behind her, because she doesn’t care. We hold the burning power in ourselves as female surfers to break through the roof and higher, every day. Forgetting about the fact that we have to move in a certain feminine way, or otherwise, we’re marked as ‘tomboys’. To keep pushing the limits of the female portion of such a big, men-dominated sport. 


woman at sunset on the beach
Alenka at the sunset, Green Bowl Beach, Bali

As a daughter of such a strong and inspiring female athlete, I personally feel responsible to carry on the way we live our life through these sports, making the female community bigger and stronger than ever before and support every sister standing next to me.

I threw my 5’2 twin fin, fishtail in the sand and tears of joy slowly slid down my burnt cheeks. 

I got barreled that day, for the first time.