Red Bull Surfing Girls Only

High performance Red Bull Surfing Girls Only Camp gathers world’s top female surfers.

Like it or not, surfing is a man’s world. For a woman, carving out a spot in the lineup is hardly an easy feat. The criticism is that girls are less extreme, less powerful, less innovative.

Therefore, the highest praise a girl’s apt to get is that they surf like a boy. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Sofía Mulanovich (PER), Maya Gabeira (BRA) and Nadja de Col (PER) are out to prove the world otherwise.

That’s the main reason the four of them congregated on the Peruvian shore from May 27-31,2010. As part of the Red Bull Surfing Girls Only camp, it was time to show the doubters that when it comes to high-performance surfing the girls can throw it down just as hard as the boys.

An intimate performance camp with four coaches on hand, Sally, Sofia, Maya and Nadja came to Peru to brush up on their techniques and hopefully elevate their game to an even higher level.
Around the world the surf media has lauded this current generation of women as the ones who are apt to shatter the gender barrier. “I believe we still have a long way to go, but we have moved a step forward,” explains Sally. “I believe it’s possible to get to where the men are, we just need to work on some of their techniques.”

“Training with guys is good for the girls because men are very competitive, which leads them to try harder every time. The girls see this, and learn from it,” says Andy Walshe, high performance manager for Red Bull Surfing.

However, girls-only training sessions are also special, and are specifically focused on how the female body operates in motion. Furthermore, the female mind is a whole different world in which the coaches must immerse themselves. “Female psychology is very different from male psychology,” says Walshe. “In a setting as intimate as this, it is much more likely that the girls come out of their shell and let us know what their goals and dreams are. We want to get to know them better, so we can help them.”

Being only amongst girls is not better or worse than having practice with boys; it’s just different. During the last mixed camp, Red Bull Project Air (February 2010), the coaches asked all the surfers what they preferred: a girl’s only and a boy’s only camp, or a mixed camp. The poll came out with a 50-50 split decision. No one could say with 100% certainty they would rather have one over the other; both camps are effective and have their own benefits.

The camp’s small group was yet another unique feature: only four girls took part and enjoyed the intense days of practice. “Having coaches as great as Dan Ross, Shane Beschen and Andy Walshe almost to myself is amazing and great for my surfing,” said Sofia.

Young Nadja de Col also reaped the benefits from the experience. “Even though you know who the coaches are, you really notice what amazing surfers they are when they see you surfing,” added Nadja, “and they come over to you and tell you to move your foot this way, or five centimeters to this side, and suddenly, you are able to maneuver in ways you never thought possible.”

The idea behind a camp as small as this one is that the coaches can concentrate on the needs of each surfer and tailor a program to help each of them individually. “Large groups don’t allow much one-on-one time with the surfers. In the Lima camp, we’ve had plenty of it,” explained Dan Ross, coach for Red Bull Surfing. And he’s not lying. Individual analysis for each girl’s surfing technique was the recurring theme during the camp week.

While the surfers were off at sea, one of the coaches would videotape every move they made, so they could see what they were doing and how to improve it as soon as they hit the shore. This coaching method, known as instant video analysis, was complemented with further video analysis once the girls arrived at the Red Bull beach house in Señoritas. An overhead projector was the star of the living room, constantly showing the videos on one of the walls, while the surfers gathered with the coaches to go through their moves and mistakes in a more personal manner.

“Each surfer is different and has to work on different things,” said Walshe. “The training regime we planned for Sofía is different to that of Sally’s, which is also different to Maya’s and Nadja’s.”
The surfers’ nutrition was another important topic discussed during the camp. Surfers use up a lot of energy while at sea, and it is very important for them to know exactly what to eat and drink to make up for the loss.

Fish is usually one of the main sources of protein in the surfers’ diet. “We usually include fish in our diet because it’s so easy to get, as we are always working by the sea,” says Ross. While at camp, the girls learnt a new way to cook fish: making ceviche. Renowned local chef Christian Bravo arrived at the Red Bull beach house to give the four girls a private lesson on how to make this traditional Peruvian dish.

But the Red Bull Surfing Girls Only camp was not all work. There was some play mixed in there. During one afternoon, Sofía, Sally and Nadja learnt something about ancient Peru. The girls traded their surfboards for “caballitos de totora” (traditional boats made with canes, that are still used by fishermen), and tried to surf the waves just like the ancient Peruvians from the Moche-Chimú culture. After a few failed attempts and some wipeouts, the girls could finally dominate the boats. “It was amazing and really fun,” said Sofia. “However, it was really hard to stand up and maneuver because the boats don’t have keels, and they weigh a lot.”

The high performance training in the camp showed the most modern surfing techniques. During the five days that the Red Bull Surfing Girls Only camp took place there were specific trainings for aerial maneuvers (using a trampoline and a skateboard to simulate the action at sea).

The girls also worked on their paddling technique, their wave selection criteria and nutrition. A mock competition that simulated the heats and rounds of a WCT tour stop was the grand finale. “This week has helped all of us.

Each one came with an idea of what she wanted to improve on, and achieved it”, said Maya. “Now we just have to use what we have learned, and show everyone how capable women can be when they’re turned loose in the sea.”

Photos by Alfredo Escobar and Agustin Munoz courtesy of Red Bull Photofiles.
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