Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Interview with a Surfer

Location:Manhattan Beach

Mileage:392

Meal: Corona beer

Music: “Wave of Mutilation” by The Pixies

Upon hearing I wished to interview a female surfer, a Manhattan Beach bartender called me with a recommendation.  “I know a pro,” he said.  The pro’s name was Jenn and she came to meet me at a local Mexican dive bar straight from bikram yoga class.  Her muscles were still pulsating from her practice.

“I gotta do it every day she said.”

I looked down and my huge bowl of guacamole and regretted the fact that lifting the caloric green up to my mouth would be my only form of exercise that evening.

However, the fact that Jenn just stood on one leg in 110-degree heat for 90 minutes was not the main source of my intimidation. In addition to being a yogi, Jenn was both a semi-pro surfer and vollyball player. Jenn was captain of the surf team at UCLA and competed internationally with the U.S. National Surf Team. Seeking out alternative forms of adrenaline, she also competed in Volleyball with the Californian Beach Volleyball Association and the NORCECA Beach Volleyball Circuit.

I had witnessed many women playing volleyball along the beach that day but hadn’t encountered many female surfers.  I asked her why more women didn’t surf in Manhatten Beach. Was it really just a man’s sport?  She explained to me that it’s actually quite rough for woman out there.

“The guys like to steal your waves, and you really have to establish yourself at a particular beach to get respect.”

Making a name for herself across the gender line is something that came naturally to Jenn.

“I was always a tomboy and always liked competition.  And in sports, the best competition always comes from going with the guys.”

Surprisingly it was Jenn’s mother, not father, that encouraged her to pursue sports from an early age.

She was always very athletic but really had no outlet.”

Jenn’s mother grew up before Title IX, a law that finally allowed women to play scholastic sports. Before Title IX, sports for women just weren’t an option. It was assumed women would satisfy their competitive urge by baking pies in Home Ec class.

“She would get grounded if she played baseball with the neighborhood boys.”

Luckily for Jenn that wasn’t the case. And challenging gender lines wasn’t just restricted to athletics. Jenn also pursued a non-traditional degree in computer science and landed a job in aeronautical engineering where she advised the airforce.

“Yeah, 91% of the people in my job are men.”   I knew I should have gone into engineering. You don’t really meet many straight men in the apparel industry.

I asked Jenn why she chose Computer Science. “I’m good at math and technical stuff and understanding how things work.  I fixed my Grandma’s VCR when I was 6.”  If it weren’t for her female physique, I would have though I was talking to my brother.

Jenn acknowledged the fact that most of her life has been rather gender reversed. “I’m actually going to be a groomsmaid at a wedding this weekend.  The groom is one of my best friends, what can I say!”

Sensing my confusion on the appropriate fashion attire, she reassured me she would still wear a dress and heels.

“I’m not a lesbian,” she stated. Before I could defend any inclination I had to stereotype she continued.I know it makes sense if I were. And it would probably be easier for me to fit in!” Jenn sighed reluctantly. “But I like men for better or for worse.”

Even though she is a beautiful tall blond with a rockin’ body, Jenn admits that dating can be somewhat hard.

“My being overly analytical prevents me from having a long term relationship because I don’t always need a man.  Men need to be needed.  Other women empower a man to fix things.  But if I see a problem I want to fix it myself.”

I ask her if she has ever been in love.

“There is someone, or rather the “idea” of someone that I have been in love with for years.  But even though I can plan my sports and my career, I cannot plan out someone’s feelings for me.”

However Jenn continues to date multiple men in the area, hoping that eventually one of them will move her beyond her hypothetical love interest.

“I always start them with a test of darts and bowling. If they can beat me at those than there is a good chance of success.”

She smiles. After all, sometimes we all just want to be the girl.

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