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May 7, 2024 13 mins

In the first part of our look at Hawai'ian women surfers and history, we delve into the work of surfer and writer Mindy Pennybacker. 

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hey, this is Annie and Samantha, and welcome to stuff
I never told you production by I heard.

Speaker 2 (00:08):
You, And welcome to another edition of Feminists around the World.
And as May is aapi Asian American Pacific Islander History Month.
And I know there's other acronyms for this, so I

will pull that up, but that's the most commonly used
as of today. And we are talking surfers, yeah, writers
and surfers as well as a surfing community of Hawaii.
Same little caveat here. As per usual, we are doing
our best in getting the translations and pronunciations correct. If

you're a native Hawaiian and wants to weigh in and
tell us what we need to correct, please do. But yes,
you know, mispronunciations are not going to stop us. We'd
love call ins, but we also love talking about our
peoples in different people's in cultures, so you know, all
that good stuff. But any I have to ask, do
you know how to surf? Have you ever gone surfing?

Speaker 1 (01:14):
Have gun surfing? Ooh surfing? And everyone who knows how
a surf is going to roll their eyes when I
say this, surfing is very difficult. Yeah, it is extremely difficult,
Like it looks like the smallest wave, like I could
do that, but the way you have to push yourself
up on the board requires a lot of arm strength

and coordination, so I can't. I would never say I
can surf. I can say I have done it okay,
and I mostly fell off on like what I would
call kitty waves, but it was very difficult. It was
extremely difficult.

Speaker 2 (01:55):
I'm sure I've just watched it from TV shows, like
I've seen a few people surf obviously, but I don't
live on the West Coast, and the coat, like the
wave scene in the East Coast is not huge.

Speaker 1 (02:08):
We know this.

Speaker 2 (02:09):
People still do there are the people do things. But
I always watch surfers in awe because the amount of strength,
core strength and leg strength and arm strength, like you
just needed to have it all. And I've never Uh
I'm not coordinated either, like I can barely stand up
in general.

Speaker 1 (02:30):
But no, I'm just saying so I haven't even there.

Speaker 2 (02:33):
I don't think there's a point that I will ever try,
because I'm absolutely one of those like I will look silly,
so I'm not even going to try to put myself
through that humiliation. But I love watching it, and I
think it's an incredible sport, so we definitely wanted to
talk about it. And yeah, we're going to talk about
some of the history and women who are advocating for
others within the sport, specifically again in Hawaii. Just to

let you know, this is kind of a two parter,
not exactly like I'm not making to see it, Okay,
I'm just going to talk about a few of the
people behind the scenes. Few are the people who are
talking about the history of it and how women have
been involved for a while and just bringing attention to it. Again,
as per usual, this comes from people publishing books and

new documentaries that are coming out.

Speaker 1 (03:18):
Which is cool that.

Speaker 2 (03:18):
Again, Annie, go ahead and get your notepad out, because
we're going to have to put this on the list
because I do really want to read this book. I
think it's gonna be really interesting, as well as some
of the documentary that's been released in the last couple
of years showing fierce young women coming out into the
sport and really making headway. So cool, cool, cool, And
we're going to start with writer, journalists and surfer Mindy Pennibacker.

Pennybacker grew up in the south of Owahu, surfing like
many of the other kids in the area, but as
a young girl, she received a lot of backlash and
pushback from some of the other boys that she served with,
many who would only make fun of her or harass her,
but often would even still her ways to assert their
dominance over her.

Speaker 1 (03:58):
Very very tricky.

Speaker 2 (03:59):
I've seen us some movies.

Speaker 1 (04:01):
Yeah, exact, that's true. You're right, it's a popular.

Speaker 2 (04:06):
Real silly saying that Fortunately she was mentored by a
surf legend, Alfred Rabbit Kakai, who coached her and so
many others, even coaching women who would go on to
become national champions in surfing. Uh. In an interview with
surfer dot com, she said, Rabbit would tell me what
to do. Tongs was thronged with kids in the late sixties,

and he was the only adult who seemed to care
about us. He would be coaching Heidi Hemmings, the younger
sister of champion Fred Hemmings, or Ev Black, who became
a national champion, but also he would teach the rest
of us etiquette and how to surf respectfully, tell us okay,
now is so and So's turn, and talking about how
to surf correctly and politely.

Speaker 1 (04:48):
Yes, not stealing the one not stealing those waves right.
And with people like that, her love for surfing and
her community grew. But she always understood that the discrimination
and sexism within the surf cold sure was toxic and
exists even today. And after she returned to Hawaii, she
started writing for the Honolulu Star Advertiser and there she

spoke up about the surf culture, including encounters and surf
etiquettes within the community. In the same surfer dot com interview,
she talked about her work for the column and she
said quote, over the years, a lot of women and
men contacted me about the column, wanting to hear more
about surf etiquette, the environment, gender equity and competition, and

just being a regular woman who surfs and feeling dismissed
and excluded by men who drop in snake as threaten
and sometimes assaults us in the waves, as in the
shocking incident in Bali in April when a man punched
Sarah Taylor in the back of the head, forcing her underwater.
I found that the sexism that we face in the
waves is really a microcosm of what we experience on

land in our daily lives. One fellow a friend of
my brother's, good surfer and self procuamed Lothario, got really
i rate at my descriptions of how men outflex women
paddle around and try to intimidate us. A couple of
times he followed my husband down supermarket aisles and in
parking lots, yelling at him to quote make Mendy stop.

Speaker 2 (06:13):
And this column soon grew into its own book. In
twenty twenty three, Pennybacker released Surfing Sisterhood Hawaii Wahiinae Reclaiming
the Waves, And here's a bit of a descriptor from
the Honolulu magazine dot com quote. In Surfing Sisterhood Hawaii,
Pennibacker shares stories from more than thirty current female Hawaii
surfers and more than one hundred striking photos and illustrations.

It's the first collection of women in surfing actually written
by woman. Pennybacker says she interviewed girls, busy mothers, and
big wave changers and discussed several pivotal events in the
past five years that depict the evolution of quote surf
culture through a female lens. And it quotes her saying
the book is called Reclaiming the Waves because I learned
that women did originally surf with equal rights to men

in Hawaii, which I hadn't known at all. After the
twentieth century, men dominated because stuffing became commodified and commercialized.

Speaker 1 (07:14):
In her interview with surfer dot Com, Pennybacker talks about
the history and legend of Hawaiian surfing. She said, quote
in the Hawaiian Origin Miss Paley and her sister Hiaka,
the goddess of fire and the goddess of hula, they
both surfed. Hula and surfing go together in traditional culture,
and many of the women I interview in the book
do both. And legend and reality, women serfed as equals

as men. I was shocked to learn this while researching
my book, because modern men had rewritten the history of
surfing to favor themselves. In a legend that predates Westerner's
arrival and was later written down by Samuel Kamakau, there
was the Surfcuala from Maui, and she just lived to surf.
All she did was surf, and she was beautiful, and

her surfing talent was known all throughout the islands. So
this chief of Oahu was looking for a spouse, and
he sent his guys in a boat to go kidnap her.
She had to live with him inland on Oahu, and
she was totally miserable.

Speaker 2 (08:13):
And she continues in the article, she had four children
with him, and she had never been to the coast
on Oahu, but she could see it from the saddle
where they're up there at the junction between kol Lao
and Wayiny Mountain ranges. Finally, she said, I just want
to go and see the seashore. Her husband looked at
her and he knew wouldn't see her again. Kamakal riots,
but he let her go, escorted by some of his people,

and she never came back. She went to Waikiki, borrowed aboard,
served so well, and the King of Waikiki ended up
marrying her. She just loved to serve so much more
than her husband. She's so human to me. Is touching
that her husband knew she was never coming back, but
he didn't try to keep her. Seems like she had
taught him something about love, and the article continues. Women

traditionally enjoyed an asserted complete equality with men in the waves,
as demonstrated by surf partners and spouses Queen Kahahumnu and
Qing Kame Anaya. Hawaiian women and men continue to surf
throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century, despite the taking
of their lands, illegal overthrow of their government, depletion of
food and natural resources, and a loss of half the

population to introduce disease. But in the mid twentieth century,
women were pushed aside by men because surfing became lucrative.
It was utilized by shortfront counties all over the world
to promote tourism and sell merchandise from surfware to cars,
and men seize the opportunity.

Speaker 1 (09:35):
And with the history. Pennybacker has been outspoken about women
being a part of the surfing world. In a Flux
Hawaii dot com article, they post Pennybacker's book, where she writes,
I began writing a newspaper column on surfing, which grew
into my book, Surfing Sisterhood Hawaii Juahini, Reclaiming the Waves.
I have been happy to see more females in the

lineup than when I was a girl, but alarmed to
witness for a more overt gender based intimidation and insulting,
dismissive behavior from males. A booming sport since the mid
twentieth century, surfing even in its everyday, supposedly fun form
has gotten exponentially more crowded and competitive, which stoke some
men's frustration and aggression. Worldwide, as of twenty sixteen, there

were an estimated thirty three million surfers, with males outnumbering
females by males four to one according to the International
Surfing Association, But in Waii the average ratio that I
and other women observe is more like eight to one. Meanwhile,
competitive surfing allots places to half as many females as
male contestants, from amateur kkey events to the elite Big

Wave and World Championship pro tours. To date, only surfing's
Olympic debut in the twenty twenty Tokyo Summer Games, where
Hawaii Krisa Kayanani more one gold has fielded equal numbers
of women and men. Hawaii's women surfers are reclaes aiming
our traditional rights in the waves and joining their colleagues
worldwide and shredding mail chauveness myths that we can't execute

advanced maneuvers such as getting tubed or exploding into the
air above the tops of the waves, or ride big
waves as well as men. When I was a little girl,
I was told that women can't surf, Kawaii native Kila
Kinley said in twenty sixteen. And I was told this
about getting barreled, surfing big waves, surfing pipeline, paddling in

at Jaws, and the list goes on. She had just
become the first woman to win the open gender Pure
Scott Barrel of the Year Big Wave Award.

Speaker 2 (11:38):
And that was just a bit from her book. And
with all of that, Pennybacker told surfer dot Com she
does see a need for change within the industry, but
still wants to make sure people enjoy the nature of
the sport. She says, when it comes down to it,
I think we have to keep speaking up. We shouldn't
be afraid to keep speaking up. But we should always
remember that surfing well with a smile is the best revenge.

If some guy think that a girl can't surf well
and they cut them off, then we just show them
different and we laugh. Surfing is supposed to be fun
for men and women. I don't want us to lose
touch with that. So yeah, I think we definitely need
to put her book on our list because it sounds
fascinating I want to see all these pictures and yes,
and we are going to come back to highlight some
of the native Hawaiian surfers next week. So if you

have any suggestions that you think we should put on
the list to talk about, go ahead and send this
that because we are still working on that list.

Speaker 1 (12:28):
I have about four Yeah, and if any of you
listeners are surfers that would be cool to hear from you,
let us know. Yes. You can email us as Stephania
mom Stuff at iHeartMedia dot com. You can find us
on Twitter amstuff podcast, or on TikTok and Instagram at
stuff I Never told you. We have a YouTube, can

go there as well. We have a tea public store
and we have a book you can get wherever you
get your books. Thanks as always to our super producer Christina,
our executive producer Maya, and a contributor Joey. Thank you
and thanks to you for listening. Steffan never told you
us Direction by Heart Radio. For more podcast from my
Heart Radio, you can check out the heart Radio app,
Apple podcast or reb you listen to favorite shows.

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