Posts Tagged ‘surfing’

A while back, I promised more about female Iranian motocross riders Noora Naraghi and Behnaz Shafiei.  Today I’m delivering with some bonus information about women learning to surf there.  The action sports scene is going strong, and these women are not letting patriarchal rules hold them back.

In 2009, along with eight other women (including her mother), Noora Naraghi competed with the men and rode out in front for the women. She competed against her mom, seven other women, and men in the MX2 division.  Her entire family rides, and her husband is stoked about the achievements she has made.  Noora set her sights on the U.S., and in 2010, she got her AMA license (the first Iranian to do so) and competed races stateside.  She worked with top female racers Stefy Bau and Ashley Fiolek while here and has taken the new knowledge to coach more women in Iran.

By Caren Firouz/Reuters

Behnaz Shafiei‘s career is full of firsts as well.  This year, she hosted and won Iran’s first female-only race.  She has also received support from family and strangers alike.  As evident with the New York Times article my friend showed me, Behnaz is gaining a lot of attention worldwide.  She even has a commercial for Georg Jensen.  Her trip to the U.S., however, taught her the need for sponsorships and licensing to compete abroad, and she is currently raising money through a gofundme to pursue her dreams.

Going from the desert to the ocean, French surfer and filmmaker Marion Poizeau introduced the sport to Iranian women four years ago.  The idea was somewhat of a coincidence, as it was a male friend who wanted to explore the untouched surf of Iran.  He missed his flight, and Marion and the third member of their party decided to make it a girls’ trip.  The locals became interested.  When she returned in 2013, she connected with two female Iranian athletes, Mona Seraji and Shalha Yasini, thus beginning “We surf in Iran” classes.

By Marion Poizeau

Coming full circle, Noora posted on her Instagram about a surfing instructor course.  Iranian women are probably embracing other action sports, as evident with Ana Lily Amirpour’s vampire skater girl protagonist in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.  Let’s hope these women keep ripping and pushing for more freedom, just like their American counterparts.

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Happy Star Wars Day everyone!  Now although I’ve already covered how action sports has crossed into the fandom, I can’t help but add this little tidbit on.  It seems that X Games Austin has decided to celebrate May 4 with photos of a Stormtrooper doing some BMX flatland tricks.
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By Sandy Carson (X Games)

Who’s the rider underneath the helmet?  Why it’s Brian Tunney!  Click here to see more fun photos of him in costume.

Moving onto another corner of geekdom, I happened to catch “Assemble”, a mini movie by Samsung and Marvel and guess who’s assumed Thor’s mantle?  John John Florence!  I can’t think of a better candidate with aerials so high he may as well look like he’s flying, a chill attitude, and yes, “godly hair”.  It’s also quite fitting that the man who plays the Asgardian is an avid surfer himself.

While John John is the only action sports pro in the team, the movie also features mechanical engineer Sasha Blanc working on and riding a motorcycle and the adorable Bobby Martinez getting to the rendezvous point on a skateboard.  I think it’s safe to say that action sports and Avengers go pretty well together… though if we were to assemble a super hero team made up of action sports pro, who would be in it?

I originally had two features for this post, but I decided to turn one into a future Science Lesson and elaborate on the other.  My friend Kyatto posted an Indiegogo for a documentary called Popoto: The Race to Save a Species.  It’s about the efforts to keep the world’s smallest dolphin, the Maui’s dolphin, from becoming extinct. There are only three days left to donate! 

One of the key players featured in the film is Peggy Oki, one of the original Zephyr skateboard team members. Her involvement in cetacean rights is not limited to Popoto.  She has founded the Origami Whales Project and is coordinating the “Let’s Face It” visual petition.  The latter focuses on raising awareness of the dire circumstances surrounding the survival of the Maui’s and Hector’s dolphin.  You can contribute a photo to the visual petition on the website (it’s not compatible with Mozilla Firefox though).  Here’s my picture:
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The site features Peggy alongside some of her fellow Z-Boys and celebrities like Slash and Juliette Lewis. Dave “Rasta” Rastovich, co-founder of Surfers for Cetaceans, is also in the gallery.  He and Peggy have teamed up to talk about the Maui’s dolphin.

Ever since I visited the New England Aquarium over Labor Day weekend, I’ve been even more obsessed with seals. C’mon, look at how adorable they are.
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That’s why I have to share this cute GoPro video that popped up on my Facebook feed.  Live Science guesses that it was a grey seal that crashed this surf session.  It’s very cool to see human and animals interact in never-before-seen ways.

Another friend recently shared a video that seemed very familiar to me.  There’s one very famous wheelchair stunt athlete, and sure enough it was Aaron “Wheelz” Fothingham.  He’s doing what he does best: busting out sick tricks on his wheelchair.

As I was writing my posts about the need for more feminism in action sports, I realized that I could do something about it. Even though I am just a fan, I can use this blog as a platform to promote female athletes who get ignored by big events and to provide resources to girls like me when I started watching the X Games. I decided to kick this new series off with MAHFIA TV not only because I was inspired after featuring Kim Woozy’s TEDTalk, but also because the site is a perfect example of how we can make action sports more feminist.

Kim, a snowboarder, founded MAHFIA TV with video producer Jonathan Villegas after she and some fellow female athletes noticed the lack of media outlets promoting what they do. With the mantra “killin’ it softly”, the site features photos and videos of ladies shredding from Spain to Korea, South Africa to Austin, Texas during the X Games.

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Vanessa Torres. By Nam-Chi Van and Kim Woozy

As a truly comprehensive platform for women in the action sports community, MAHFIA TV brings in other elements of the industry, like music and marketing. Through her MAHFIA SESSIONS series, Kim continues to the conversation on the need for more brands for women, by women in action sports with an emphasis on action (as opposed to posing) and camaraderie.

Check out these interviews with Kim about MAHFIA TV:
GrindTV – “Kim Woozy changing the game for girls in action sports”
Cooler – “This Is Me: Kim Woozy”

It’s been a while since I’ve come across random action sports posts on my Facebook feed, but these are two interesting stories that make up for the huge break I took since my last Facebook Findings post.  The first comes from  my tattooed burlesque dancer friend Honey Hula-la.  She linked an article about a DIY tattoo parlor in Colorado run by skater Jesse Brocado called No Class.  I’m not going to share the VICE article because I have issues with that magazine and their bigotry.  Instead I’ll link to Peter Garritano’s photos of No Class tattoos and skaters.  I don’t approve of what No Class does mainly because they admit to not sterilizing and the drunkenness plus lack of experience can do a lot of damage.  However, in today’s world of consumerism, we could use some hardcore DIY.

My friend Canon recently promoted the second finding, a video fro the project “Through the Surface”.  Created by Clinton Edward and Clifford Kapono, the project mixes surfing, science, and saving the ocean.  They’ve submitted it on National Geographic’s Expedition Granted competition.  I’m passionate about conservation and science education (and of course, action sports) so you can bet that they’ve got my vote.  Click here to vote. You can do so everyday until September 29.

I used to think that being an action sports fan would put me at odds with being a lifetime environmentalist.  It was so hard to engage in a proper dialogue with my fellow FMX lovers because they only ever saw environmentalists as “the enemy” trying to deprive them of the opportunity to ride; it was equally difficult to bring up dirt bikes in a conversation about protecting the earth.  Once I asked my ecology teacher whether dirt bikes were really that bad, and she said the damage was in going off-course into protected land, not in pollution.

These days, I see a step forward with the shift to cleaner four-stroke engines, but motocross needs to catch up with the rest of the action sports community in embracing a greener lifestyle.  Enough about the negatives though.  Let’s properly celebrate Earth Day by focusing on how action sports enthusiasts are also environmentalists.

Surfrider Foundation began with three Malibu surfers trying to save First Point.  Now the organization works to protect coastal and ocean ecosystems in eighteen countries through research, education, and activism.  Their programs are proof that everybody who loves water can co-exist as they promote sustainable living, public beach access, gardening methods that reduce run-off pollution, and ways to improve water quality.

The Surfrider Foundation's publication

The Surfrider Foundation’s publication

This past weekend, surfers in Bali got together for the final Beach Clean Up event.  Staff members from Quiksilver, Surfer Girl, Coca-Cola Amatil Indonesia, and other organizations worked with locals, journalists, and surfers to pick up over three thousand kilograms of trash over the course of the four events.

Snowboarders have shown just as much initiative with Marie-France Roy making a movie about her environmentally conscious peers and Jamie Anderson and Elena Hight promoting eco-friendly clothing.

The X Games also took to promoting REPREVE’s water bottle-made beanies.

I was a bit worried over the environmental impact of Red Bull Supernatural, but I should have known better.  Travis Rice and Red Bull actually brought in a forester and a biologist to make sure the event wouldn’t do any harm.  When concerns were raised about the local pine population, the builders made sure not to cut down any.  This is a perfect example of how to build a course without negatively impacting natural habitats.

In reaction to the impact of climate change on winter sports, Jeremy Jones, one of the riders featured in Roy’s film, created Protect Our Winters (POW).  Last year, the non-profit petition for President Obama to abandon the Keystone XL pipeline in favor of more renewable energy sources.  Various winter sports athletes banned together via POW to form the Riders Alliance, and their activism caught the attention of The Sierra Club, just in time for the Olympics.  POW actually utilized the publicity generated by the Olympics to raise awareness on climate change, and they’ve partnered with North Face to educate students.

Also featured in Sierra Club publications is Bob Burnquist.  He’s the co-founder of the Action Sports Environmental Coalition, which played a role in the X Games’ early efforts to go green.  He has worked with Chipotle, Whole Foods, and Oakley to promote sustainable living.

The ASEC site hadn’t been updated in a couple of years, but I hope they’re still active.  Regardless of where you choose to practice your sport, it’s important to consider the environment and protect the earth.  If even it’s something small like picking up after ourselves (and our friends) and not using plastic bottles, we as a community can help make a difference.  Happy Earth Day!

My apologies for not updating in a while, especially since I have yet to recap two X Games events (this global format is not working well with my schedule).  I’m going to put it off some more for a topic that I think is very important: queer politics.  Ever since NBA player Jason Collins made headlines by coming out, I’ve been thinking about the lack of openly gay athletes in action sports.

Our community could stand to be more queer.  There are many fans who fall under the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bi, trans*, questioning, intersex, asexual), and I’m pretty sure there’s at least one pro identifying as each of the letters in the acronym.  Then why don’t we have more action sports stars who are out and proud?  Why do we not have a spokesperson for LGBT issues?

For a while, I had deluded myself into thinking that the quietness was a result of everyone being so accepting.  After all, it was casually mentioned in an X Games broadcast that snowboarder Cheryl Maas had welcomed a baby with her wife.  “Nothing to get worked up over” was the message, but what if it had been a male snowboarder?  There are articles calling out for a gay skate, snow, or surf icon.

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Although I haven’t seen Cheryl talk about her sexuality, she does bring up her wife (snowboarder Stine Brun Kjeldaas) and posts pictures of her family on her Tumblr.

We need one.  I can’t count the number of times I saw the word “gay” being used in a derogatory manner on freestyle motocross message boards.  I’ve seen BMX articles with a homophobic tone.  No, the action sports world is not accepting; it’s  not immune to the dominant straight male attitudes that permeates throughout mainstream sports like basketball.

A decade ago, Tim Von Werne (featured in the “skate” article above), Matt Branson, and Robbins Thompson had to deal with coming out and ending their careers.  Birdhouse pulled Von Werne’s interview because he talked about being gay, and that convinced him to not turn pro.  After much trauma, Branson dropped out of the ASP pro tour.   Thompson got sick of the questions and negative comments (and having “fag” spray painted on his car didn’t help), and he quit as well.  This is not encouraging for queer youths wanting to do action sports.

Times have changed a bit.  There are allies like snowboarder Scott E. Wittlake and Skateboard Mag writer Rob Brink (both quoted in the “snow” article linked above).  We’re seeing more interviews with athletes who are gay and lesbian.  King Shit did a feature on transgender skater Hillary Thompson.  While she’s not pro, there have been more articles about her and they’ve been very positive.
heather photo Hillary-Thompson-OllieUpToCrookedGrind-Raleigh1_zps9a19ef47.jpgPhoto by Sam McGuire for Jenkem Magazine

My list of pros who are openly gay, lesbian, and trans is small, but I hope that it grows and will include other orientations too:

However, as the documentary Out in the Line-up reveals in the surfing world, and action sports in general, things are far from equal… or even safe.  Until the community has a well-known name who is out and proud or a real push to promote equality, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Recently the web has been buzzing about bioluminescent waves in San Diego. This isn’t their first appearance in So Cal, and it won’t be their last. While they may not be rare, they do give an Otherworldly touch to surf footage. Check out this video from Man’s Best Media:

What’s responsible for the neon blue glow? In the ocean, there are these tiny organisms called dinoflagellates. Neither plant nor animal, dinoflagellates are protists comprised of a single cell with two appendages called flagella that they whirl around to propel them across the surface of the ocean. In fact their name comes from the Greek word for “whirling” (dinos) and the Latin for “whip” (flagellum). The species of dinoflagellate that causes the bioluminescent waves in So Cal is Lingulodinium polyedrum.

Lingulodinium polyedrum at night. From Hastings lab

When a dinoflagellate population explodes as a result of increased nutrients in the water and optimized growing conditions, it causes an algal bloom, also known as a “red tide” for the color that it changes the water. Not all blooms are red nor are they associated with the tide. Algal blooms can deplete the oxygen in the water, and certain dinoflagellates produce neurotoxins that kill fish and end up in the shellfish we eat. L. polyedrum was found to contain toxins, but the fact that surfers and beach-goers have no effect from the being in the water suggests that the toxins are at a low concentration.

Bioluminescent dinoflagellates can produce short flashes of light or a sustained glow in response to being disturbed by waves, boats, or predators. When a dinoflagellate sense a disturbance along its cellular membrane, the pH inside the cell drops, causing particles called scintillons to trigger a chemical reaction that produces the bioluminescence. The blueish-white areas in the picture of L. polyedrum above are the scintillons emitting light (the red is from chlorophyll). The flashes of light are used to distracts creatures that feed on dinoflagellates and attracts the attention of bigger predators. Not a bad defense mechanism for a single-celled organism, right?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer  (excluding  non-melanoma skin cancer) among women in the U.S.  One in eight women will be diagnosed with it at some point in their lives.  October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the women of action sports have dedicated themselves to raise awareness and support the fight against breast cancer.

After losing her mom to the disease, motocross racer Laurie Cary started MX Ride for the Cause.  This annual event takes place in Cahuilla Creek and features much more than just riding and demos.  There’s a bra parade, an auction, a raffle, food, and a dance floor.  Proceeds go to Michelle’s Place, a breast cancer resource center in California.  This year’s MX Ride for the Cause takes place on Saturday, October 1.

Another California-based organization, Boarding for Breast Cancer, is raising awareness in the snow, skate, and surf communities.  It was founded by snowboarders Tina Basic and Shannon Dunn, video game producer Lisa Hudson, and writer Kathleen Gasperini, all of whom had a friend battling breast cancer.  B4BC makes appearances at many events, including the X Games and the Warped Tour.  It also sponsors some of the top boarders in the world: Hannah Teter, Tara Dakides, Lyn-z Adams Hawkins, and Mary Osbourne.  Be sure to check out the B4BC website for information on future events, survivor stories, and how to protect yourself and get involved in the fight against breast cancer.

Remember: check your breasts monthly (at around the same time) because no one else, not even your doctor, knows your body like you do.  If you’re 40 or older, be sure to get an annual mammogram.  Guys, keep an eye out for suspicious lumps on your body too because men get breast cancer too.  The key to winning the battle is early detection.