It’s hard enough being a woman in a patriarchal society, harder still to be a woman in sport. Ever since India was introduced to surfing, women have had to brave tough conditions – more from society than nature – to get ahead.
Even though Suhasini Damian, 20, from Pondicherry had support from her immediate neighbourhood, she still faced problems. “Many people commented that I was dark and used to look more beautiful before. I got those comments very frequently.”
Sinchana Gowda too is forced to deal with similar situations. At 15, she’s at an age usually vulnerable to unnecessary criticism. “Many people ask why girls even participate in sports. There are still many who say we should not go surfing because we will get tanned,” she explained.
It’s the same story on east coast where she surfs and on the west coast where Suhasini goes out onto the waves. “I have had men and boys whistling and shouting nasty, vulgar comments while I walk to the beach with my board in my surf shorts and rash vest. Harassment and nasty comments from men on the beach are one of the biggest challenges female surfers in India face,” Suhasini explained.
Sinchana revealed how community support only comes after they have proved themselves with medals and success. With surfing now included in the Olympics, she hopes for more supporters and sponsors for surfers in India.
Suhasini too hopes for more support from parents and friends, and also that women will soon have the freedom to do what they want without being judged.
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