The Broadcast / Pride Stories: Tia & Anton

Pride Stories: Tia & Anton

As part of our Pride campaign in June, we asked members of Queer Surf Club what barriers they face to entering the water, as well as launching a census to gather more data. In an effort to extend the conversation beyond Pride month, we’re continuing to share their stories.

Here, surfers Tia and Anton share their experiences, shining an uncomfortable light on aggression and microaggressions in the lineup.


3 min read

As a lesbian woman of colour, Tia has to deal with entering into what can feel like hostile spaces to access a sport, her hobby, and the freedom that she loves. Her challenge isn't born from a lack of courage. She's an adventurer about to embark on a cross-country ski to the Northern Pole of inaccessibility. The farthest point in the Arctic away from land. Tia wants to be the "first queer, black female to go where people haven't been before". Yet, when Tia and her partner go to the beach, her biggest challenge to overcome is to learn how to manage the experience of being scrutinised.

"It's the way people act. People stare at you as soon as you appear, you feel that the atmosphere changes. It feels like we're walking on eggshells, as you're aware that someone might say something to you. No matter how much we go, we feel awkward and out of place. The way people stare at you gets you on edge. You feel uneasy. You don't want to have fun when you're being watched like a hawk. It makes you want to hide away even more."

Tia appreciates that most people might not feel like they fit the racist stereotype or associate with racist views. But her message is for people to be more aware of how their behaviour can affect others. "Yes, we're lesbians, we look different, and we're both women of colour, but it's like when they realise that I'm gay as well. Ahhh, there are two things to not like about me.” Tia feels like "an alien to everybody" but this doesn't discourage her from returning to get her fill. "I think the reason I enjoy it so much is because I've spent all my life in a city. It’s finally being in something that I can enjoy and have fun in. Without it, I would be a bit lost."

Our survey reflects how few people of colour and black LGBTQIA+ community members take part in the sport, with just 2% sharing their experiences in our survey. More alarming, though, was the incidences of racism that people had witnessed, with over 15% of our respondents, a figure much higher than those that had experienced it.

This shows how hostile the water can be and evidences the reasons why there are such low numbers of non-white surfers. However, intimidation and aggression are not uncommon for every type of surfer - even those who may outwardly seem to blend in with the majority.

Anton, 31, unfortunately, experienced an occasion where he’d hoped to find solace in the waves. Instead, his first trip back in the water after a bereavement became a traumatic experience that still lives with him today.

“The surfer who threw comments at me was about 5 years ago. My sister, who was also a gay surfer and had recently passed away and so heading back into the water was a hard step. The surfer was about to drop in on me - I’m not precious about waves, there will always be another behind - so I pulled out to allow him through. He threw his middle finger back at me as he surfed away. I moved over to the worst part of the break just to avoid further interaction when I saw him paddling at me full steam! He screamed at me, “F***in' poofs”, and “Gays on trays aren’t welcome here”.

As overtly aggressive as this interaction was, for Anton, a cis white male, the question remained - how did this surfer even know he was gay? “I’d first got into the sea earlier that day with my friend, who identifies as straight”, he explains, “As my friend was new to surfing, I had been helping him earlier and hugged him after catching his first wave in celebration. Was this a gay act? Did the surfer even know I was gay? I was so caught out by it that I had nothing to say, so I simply paddled in and haven’t been back to that particular beach since.”

As hard as these stories are to hear, and as difficult as it may be for some to accept that this is still a real issue in 2023, that is the reality faced by many LGBTQIA+ surfers. It’s interactions like those described here by Tia and Anton which show how important it is to confront and call out this behaviour when we see it.

It’s why organisations like Queer Surf Club exist, why we’re proud to have supported them through our Pride campaign, and why we’ll continue to shine a light on these stories throughout the year, to be better allies to the LGBTQIA+ community.

1 in 4 surfers we asked have witnessed some form of harassment in the sea, and a third told us that the barriers they face stop them from returning to the water.

Take our survey and add to the data, so we can gain a clearer picture of the barriers people face to getting in.


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