Stephanie Gilmore
Stephanie Gilmore has clinched her eighth surfing world title beating Carissa Moore in the final. Image by PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO
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Women take up surf training as regional drownings spike

Jack Gramenz March 5, 2024

Surfing is riding a new wave of interest from women.

There has been a surge in females taking to the water since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Surfing NSW programs support officer Kathy Walton.

A grant the body received, one of 22 under the state government’s Investing In Women program, has helped provide 150 women with coaching certificates while another round of funding opening on Tuesday will see $250,000 go to selected organisations.

Surfing NSW’s program helped empower more women and girls participate in a historically blokey sport and bring with them improved surf lifesaving skills, first-aid CPR and ocean safety training, Ms Walton said.

Almost 100 people drowned during summer, according to a Surf Lifesaving Australia report on Friday.

Surfing NSW targeted regional and remote areas that accounted for 60 per cent of drownings along the coast, up nine per cent over the previous year.

“Beaches aren’t patrolled all the time … we’re giving those skills to regional areas and surfers, then they’re able to use those skills when it’s an unpatrolled beach … it’s very beneficial to the community,” Ms Walton told AAP.

In addition to training there are also credentials required for coaching which carry their own cost but Ms Walton said a larger barrier remained.

“It’s just more the confidence thing, being able to encourage women to get more involved.”

Gendered perceptions of surfing are improving on the back of Australian champions such as Layne Beachley, Stephanie Gilmore and Tyler Wright.

“It has changed immensely but we still want to provide more opportunities for women in the surf industry,” Ms Walton said.

She wants to empower more females to take up coaching and mentor girls into the sport in a supportive and safe environment.

The grants also helped local businesses, with some participants filling roles at understaffed surf schools.

“We found so many benefits from this and it was a really amazing thing to empower women, so we’re hoping that we can do all this again,” Ms Walton said.

The latest round of grants have multi-year funding available for the first time.

“Some projects simply can’t be delivered in a 12-month period,” Women Minister Jodie Harrison said.

“It means there can be more robust programs funded under the grant.”

Up to $250,000 is available for multi-year projects advanced by registered non-profits, local councils and private sector industry bodies, while annual funding provides between $25,000 and $100,000 grants from the $1 million fund.

“The key thing is … a real commitment to making sure what the funds are going to be used for is going to make a real difference in women’s lives and in fact the way that our communities operate,” Ms Harrison told AAP.