Gertrude Ederle

From Pioneers to the Podium: A brief history of women in surf and kitesurfing

In the early days of surfing, women were often relegated to the sidelines. The few women who dared to enter the water were considered pioneers. However, in recent years, women have made huge strides in both surf and kitesurfing, and today they are some of the best athletes in these sports. In this blog post, we will take a look at the history of women in surf and kitesurfing, from their earliest pioneers to their current champions!

One of the earliest pioneers of women in surfing was Duke Kahanamoku. Duke was a Hawaiian surfer who is credited with popularizing the sport of surfing. He was also a champion swimmer, and in 1912, he won gold medals in both the 100 meter freestyle and the 400 meter freestyle at the Olympic Games. However, Duke was not just a champion athlete; he was also a champion for women in surfing. In the early 1900s, surfing was seen as a sport for men only, but Duke believed that anyone could surf, regardless of their gender. He even gave surfing lessons to some of the first women surfers, including Isabel Letham and Gertrude Ederle.

Duke's belief that anyone could surf, regardless of their gender, paved the way for women in surfing. In the 1920s and 1930s, more and more women began to take up surfing. One of the most popular spots for women surfers was Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. This is where Duke Kahanamoku grew up and first learned to surf.

One of the earliest known female surfers was Hawaiian princess, Kaiulani. Born in 1875, Kaiulani was a skilled surfer who often rode waves standing up, rather than lying down like most people did at the time. She was also known for her impressive diving skills and is said to have been one of the first people to ever attempt a 360 degree turn on a surfboard.

While Kaiulani was certainly a pioneer in surfing, it would be another few decades before women really started to make their mark on the sport. One of the most influential early female surfers was Australian, Isabel Letham. Born in 1909, Letham was a fearless surfer who wasn't afraid to tackle big waves. She was also one of the first people to start surfing competitively and is credited with helping to popularize the sport in Australia.

Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman was one of the first women to surf in public, and she quickly gained notoriety for her skills. In the early 1900s, Kellerman was also one of the first women to don a bathing suit that showed her legs and arms - which was considered scandalous at the time!

Gertrude Ederle was also one of the early pioneers of the sport. She was the first woman to cross the English Channel – by swimming it! – in 1926. Although she didn't start surfing until later in life, her accomplishments as a swimmer helped to pave the way for other women in watersports.

Throughout the years, more and more women have taken up surfing and kitesurfing, and they've made a huge impact on the watersports world. In the 1940s, Gidget - aka Kathy Kohner Zuckerman - popularized surfing with her best-selling novel, "Gidget." And in the 1980s, Hawaiian surfer Rell Sunn was nicknamed the "Queen of Makaha" for her dominance in competitive surfing.

In the 1950s and 60s, surfing started to become more popular in the United States and some of the first female surfers to gain attention were American. Names like Marge Calhoun, Joyce Hoffman started to become synonymous with the sport. These women helped to further popularize surfing and make it more acceptable for women to participate.

Today, surfing is a popular sport all over the world and women are finally getting the credit they deserve as talented athletes. While there is still a long way to go in terms of gender equality in the sport, female surfers are now respected as serious athletes and competitors. With names like Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore, and Sally Fitzgibbons at the top of the rankings, it's clear that women are here to stay in the world of surfing.

Waikiki Beach was also the birthplace of another watersport: kitesurfing. Kitesurfing is a relatively new sport, but it has already become popular with women. In fact, some of the best kitesurfers in the world are women. 

Kiteboarding is a relatively new sport, first gaining popularity in the 1990s. But women have been involved in kitesurfing from the very beginning. In fact, one of the first professional kitesurfers was a woman - Kirsty Jones from the United Kingdom. Kirsty was also the first person to kitesurf across the English Channel!

Kitesurfing is growing in popularity amongst women as well - in fact, the Women's International Kiteboarding Association (WIKA) was founded in 2007 to promote the sport amongst female kitesurfers.

Today, there are many female surfers and kitesurfers who are making a name for themselves in the world of watersports. Sarah-Jane Spence is one of the top female kitesurfers in the world, and she's also a big advocate for getting more women involved in the sport.

In 2006, Susi Mai became the first woman to win a world championship title in kitesurfing. And in 2009, Bruna Kajiya became the first woman to win the Red Bull King of the Air, one of the most prestigious kitesurfing competitions in the world.

So, from the pioneers of surfing to the present-day champions of kitesurfing, women have always been a part of these watersports. And there's no doubt that they will continue to be an important part of the future of these sports. Thanks for reading! I hope you found this article interesting.

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