Girls On Foam - Lilly Pollard

Girls on foam - Lilly Pollard. Photo: Sam Venn

Girls on foam - Lilly Pollard. Photo: Sam Venn

Women’s bodyboarding often takes a backseat to the Men’s side of the sport, whether it be through sponsorship, media coverage, priority in competitions, prize-money or simply just respect in the line-up. Aussie ripper Lilly Pollard is not one to sit and watch this go unaddressed and believes there is a lot that should and can be done to see a positive change within our sport. We spoke to the outspoken legend to kick off a conversation about the gender divide in our sport.

Lilly can certainly hold her own just as well as the guys (if not better than many), as demonstrated by the accompanying flicks of her out at a wave ironically usually dominated by a certain group of ‘boys’.


 MM: Pretty incredible to see how much you're pushing your bodyboarding in heavy waves, what or who is your inspiration? 

LP: Getting barrelled and simply that rush from pushing myself mentally and physically to go harder is always a great motivator! I feel like life is boring if you always play it safe.  Nothing like a nice adrenaline rush to make you feel alive!

Ever since I was a grom, Leila Alli has always been my inspiration in big barrelling waves. Her style, grace and fearlessness is incredible. 

Who do you believe to be the best girl bodyboarder at the moment? 

I’m going to be greedy and name four please! Ayaka Suzuki, Alexandra Rinder, Isabela Sousa and Joana Schenker.

Are they better than you?

Yes! So much better! And I’m so stoked to see how they are pushing our sport! Do yourself a favour and go follow them on social media and get inspired 💜

Photo: Sam Venn

Photo: Sam Venn

Is part of the reason why you push your riding so much because you feel as if you need to push women’s bodyboarding and show that women are equal to men? 

Yes actually, you are totally right, there are often moments that I feel the extra pressure as the only female in the line-up to make sure I don’t blow it for the girls. It’s always about so much more than just me, I feel like if I blow a wave, it’s fuel for the guys watching to say “See, I told you, girls are shit and don’t deserve shit”. So it’s definitely a motivating factor for me in my riding. Especially more recently since I’ve been more vocal about equality.

A good example of that animosity towards the girls is when Kira Llewellyn had a spot in the Shark Island contest a few years back, the conditions were weird, not ideal, she charged a couple, got closed out on and got knocked out. Same thing happened to some male riders too of course, but the Cronulla boys ignored what happened with the other riders and focused in on Kira’s loss, they have since used that as a reason to say that no girls deserve a spot in the Island contest. I think that’s a very cut-throat and toxic attitude to have towards women and the women in our sport.

What’s it like being a girl bodyboarder, any stories about sexist jerks giving you heat for turning up on a boogie? 

Hmmm, I can’t think of any face to face moments, mostly just online bullying. I also remember that being a girl has even worked in my favour a few times, like when the Bra Boys have taken over a couple of different spots in the past and sent bodyboarders in. I just quietly stayed out and continued surfing. If they’re going to hit a girl, they’re going to have a lot to answer for. 

To be honest, in most of my experience, the guys are all supportive out in the water. 

Have you seen a decline in the number of girls riding bodyboards?

Sadly yes. But we can change that!

It seems like in the 80’s and 90’s that half of the sport wore a bikini and rode a pink railed BZ, where have they all gone? 

Oh yes! the years of Claudia Ferrari, France Hazar, Leila Alli, Steph Peterson, Mariana Noguiera, Vicki Gleeson! My heroes! Bodyboarding was booming then hey. 

The Brazilian girls always led the charge in women’s Bodyboarding, so tenacious and stylish and inspiring. And those boards! I would die for those board colours! I can’t even order a hot pink board nowadays. That alone is ridiculous. I take that as a way of the board manufacturers subtly suppressing females.

Who is to blame for it? 

We all are. We all have a lot of work to do. It’s impossible to point the finger at one entity. What I would like each of us to do is reflect on what we could and should be doing better, not for our own selfish reasons, but for the sport as a whole. I think that is circular anyway; helping the sport helps ourselves. 

When I speak of equality, I’ve had some highly aggressive responses from a lot of male riders. It’s no wonder that so many girls come into this sport and fade out again. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

 
When I speak of equality, I’ve had some highly aggressive responses from a lot of male riders.
— Lilly Pollard
 

I honestly still get emotional when I turn on the tv nowadays and see women’s soccer, basketball and footy on. I LOVE it and I watch every game I can! It’s so exciting to me and I know it is to many others, and to know that the young girls coming up now have these role models on tv now to look up to. I never had that as a kid, and I remember every male justifying that as “the girls are shit in comparison to the guys”. 

I’m just so grateful for the people in those sports that had the vision and tenacity to make them equal, or at least, closer to being equal! YES I’m aware that in women’s sports power isn’t there the same as the men’s, but “power” is not why I watch the games. It’s competition, it’s exciting, it’s fun, I relate to each player as a female and I’m so stoked for the future of the girls in these sports.

What are your thoughts on the equal prize money debate?

At the Jeff Wilcox event last year Shane and Rhonda ran the event with equal prize money across every division. I wasn’t upset that “my” prizemoney was reduced to allow other divisions more prize money, it was simply equal as it should be and such good vibes all round. 

Men’s, women’s, DK, juniors, Masters, are all deserving of equal prize money. Why not!?  I won’t ever forget hearing Super grom Sam Giddy proclaiming at that event that it was his first ever prize money! He earned that! And his parents would be stoked to have all that work they put in to taking him to the events also paying off. 

Putting all your eggs in one basket (ie the men’s division!) is not the way to build the future of our sport.

No Fear. Photo: Lilly Pollard

No Fear. Photo: Lilly Pollard

 
Putting all your eggs in one basket is not the way to build the future of our sport.
— Lilly Pollard
 

To me, I just don’t believe equal prizemoney should be a threat to anyone. As individuals each rider can find extra sponsorship that they deserve, and from the APB point of view I believe it would strengthen the tour if they effectively marketed all the divisions together in their sponsorship proposals. As far as I know, Alex and the crew are now working on this for the future (not to say that I’m not bitterly disappointed about the lack of a women’s division at Pipe this year). But I’m hopeful of their progress.

And if you’re still reading this and feeling doubtful, think about this story for a moment; I recently saw a comment from a guy saying something like “if the prizemoney is equal then the men’s division will get less so heaps of the men will drop off the tour” 

Firstly, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, finding more sponsorships to make it up will be key. And secondly, shouldn’t that be an “AH-HUH” moment to you guys, that maybe that’s a big part of the reason why the level of the women’s division is behind the men’s? By offering less prize money, you’re essentially stating that women are less so deserve less, and due to that kick in the guts and the lack money, the girls do drop off the tour and the young girls getting in to the sport don’t have that inspiration to look towards. Hence why we’re in this shocking pattern.

 
By offering less prize money, you’re essentially stating that women are less so deserve less...
— Lilly Pollard
 

I’m just stoked that heaps of other sports have come on board in equality and I’m going to keep pushing for that. 

My thoughts are, be inclusive, be welcoming, and remember that Bodyboarding is not only about hard-core riding. It’s an amazing sport for the whole family. There are huge opportunities if we embrace all aspects of our sport. 

What needs to be done to make women’s bodyboarding great again? 

For Movement Mag, I first want to say YES, Thank you legends for your feature on Ayaka and her riding in the last issue, I’d Like to see more of that!

For the board companies, I would like to see more support for the girls. NMD and VS are arguably the biggest brands in the business and as far as I’m aware, do not sponsor any females. I love what Hardy is doing for the girls with girl’s boards, wetsuits and coaching and encouragement and support. He’s the most passionate and inspiring human. I also think it’s so epic that Ben Player, Mike Stewart and Johnny Cruikshank are actively coaching and supporting our youth alongside your brands. I’d love to see more girls embraced and involved in that side of it wherever possible.

For me personally, I feel I need to run some more “Girls Go bodyboarding” days through The Bodyboard Academy in my spare time and refocus on encouraging more girls into the sport. And attaining some more outside media with women’s/girls’ magazines. 

I’m also aware that I made the above argument a lot about equal prize money but it’s more than that. I feel that many girls aren’t even interested in competition, it’s a lot about fun and lifestyle and enjoying nature and getting fit while we’re at it. So, it’s also about us all encouraging and promoting that side of it. 

All smiles. Photo: Sam Venn

All smiles. Photo: Sam Venn

What’s your message to all the girl’s on foam out there?

To you girls, I would love to see that encouragement and support of each other continue to grow. 

Any girls getting into the sport, I’d Like to say, welcome! You’ve chosen the best sport in the world. I’m sorry that this article doesn’t sound overly inspiring to you to start Bodyboarding at this moment, but politics aside, there are so many positives to this sport.

In all honesty, Bodyboarding is the single greatest thing I did for myself in this life. It has given me so much joy, and so many incredible moments; watching the sunrise over the sea, getting barrelled, party waves, learning tricks, squealing at dolphins, making friendships with amazing like-minded people of the sea, travelling the world hunting waves and improving myself in competitions, those clear blue water days that just make you smile, those late arvo surfs where all your worries of the day are completely washed away... What more can I say?

Thankyou Movement for giving me this space to share my thoughts, and I hope together we can help change a few attitudes and help create a better future for us all in this sport. 

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we get the perspectives of Women’s 2017 champ Joana Schenker, Aussie Joshua Kirkman and The APB’s World Tour Manager Terry McKenna.