Provocation piece: Women in Sport

Professional surfer, model and influencer, Laura Crane’s interest in surfing began at the age of 13 after she moved to North Devon, and became UK champion at the age of just 14.

Since then Laura has represented Great Britian internationally, ranking fifth in the 2013 International Surfing Association Eurpoean Championships. Whilst travelling the world competing, Laura continued to model for International brands including Nike, Billabong and Chilli  Surfboards.

Now based in Portugal, following a two year stint surfing in Bali, Laura is dedicated to promoting a healthy body image and flying the flag for talented, female surfboarders and sportswomen across the globe. She was a popular contestant in Love Island 2018.

“As a child i don’t think that anyone would have guessed I’d become a professional surfer.

I grew up in Bristol where nobody surfed. It was only after i moved to Devon in my teens that I became a more obvious choice. Or it would have been if I had been a boy! Back then, I was one of the only surfer girls.

But the fact that it was a male dominated sport, and because of my competetive nature, it gave me a bigger drive to be as good as the guys – if not better!

That’s not to say that things have always been easy. Probably the lowest point in my career was when one of my sponsors publicly branded me ‘fat’. At the time, I was recovering from an eating disorder. Comments like that are always hard to deal with, and I don’t think would ever be said to a man.

I am incredibly strong now, mentally and physically. I think that this is bacause I had to get through some tough times, while always making sure my surfing never suffered.

There were definitely times when negative comments would affect me. This was mainly throughout the time I had my eating disorder – I was far more vulnerable then. Luckily I had a strong family support network back home that got me through.

If I had one piece of advice for young sportswomen starting out today, it would be to never hold back and always push yourself. I’d also tell them that it’s never too late to start.

Being a model and an althlete has been hard to balance. I’ve definitely had times when my looks have hindered the athletic side of things. It was hard to fit in both scenes. As a pro surfer I had to be strong and physically fit and as a model I thought I had to be petite.

The sport is changing now and becoming a more equal place for both men and women. For a long time, competition money for men was much better. I’m super proud to see my sport paying women equally for The WSL (World Surf League), so hopefully this will change throughout the whole industry.

And 100%, I think a female surfer has every chance of beating a male pro. We are increasingly being given equal resources and opportunities, so I don’t see any reason why not.

But girls still face some unique barriers, which are holding them back from becoming professional surfers. Not least, male surfers pick up a lot more press for their ability to surf, so that can make it easier for them to gain sponsorship.

The five changes that I would want to see made across surfing that would make the sport fairer for all would be:

  1. Equal funding all round

  2. More female exposure as athletes

  3. More female athletes (ex-althletes) involved in the broadcast and presenting side

  4. Increase in success stories being acknowledged in the media

  5. Encouragement from an early age to try all sports

I would be disappointed of these things hadn’t changed over the next five years…”