In Their Words – Surfline

Ashley S. Crofoot

The ocean is for every person. But the surf tradition isn’t. Just paddling out will tell you that. There’s the lineup, sitting in judgement — do you belong, or do not you? Delight Thirty day period produced us assume about all that — so we asked four distinguished LGBTQ+ surfers about their experiences coming out in the lineup, and beneath are their tales.


Makoa Ho, 25 many years outdated, son of late Derek Ho, model, freelance photographer and filmer, aspiring actor, splits his time concerning the North Shore and LA

Makoa Ho. Photograph: Amber Mozo

“Growing up on the North Shore of Oahu, I did not see myself in the browsing earth. There have been no homosexual male surfers when I was a child. I just felt like I was dwelling this lie. And it took me really falling in love with a person to truly be ok with who I was. And I feel at the time I felt that just overpouring of appreciate and passion and acceptance, I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this. I’m satisfied.’ If I’m joyful, then nothing else issues.

“I consider the surfing environment cares for me and my household, but I consider it was a greater deal in my head than it was. As much as I know, everyone’s very accepting. But I do come to feel passionately about staying that figure or function product for other little ones in the surfing entire world, for the reason that there was no 1 for me to glimpse up to, and there is not a great deal converse about it. I’m curious as to what people today actually imagine if the dialogue were to be sprung on them. Like, ‘Okay. Effectively, let us get into it. How do you actually sense?’ So matters like this posting you guys are undertaking is really remarkable, essentially.

Makoa Ho. Photo: Tommy Pierucki

“Everyone in my family just exudes the surfing planet. So on that finish of the spectrum I’m so acknowledged, clearly. But then on this other end of the spectrum, it’s pretty much like I’m an outsider. I’m the black sheep of the browsing environment. So it’s so contradictory in itself. And I was always like, ‘Hey, so am I aspect of this browsing neighborhood or not?’

“I feel it is significant to fully grasp how significantly we have arrive in this motion. I want homosexual surfers to not experience discouraged, simply because even although homophobia nevertheless exists, there is actually so considerably assist, and that is a little something I’m however having employed to. As I have gotten more mature and more open with my sexuality I have understood my friends really don’t just accept me but they encourage me, specially the approaching technology. They are so mindful!

“That remaining said, there is a great deal extra perform to be carried out. I’d like to see us as a browsing local community break the pattern of wondering, ‘He’s a fantastic surfer—for being gay.’ Surfing ability and sexuality are two different characteristics. All in all, we’re headed in the appropriate path. I’m very pleased of us!”


Keala Kennelly, 42 a long time aged, previous WCTer, Triple Crown winner, large-wave pioneer, from Kauai

Keala Kennelly. Photograph: Alana Spencer / Pink Bull Information Pool

“It was tough. Even before I got on tour, there were being these cautionary tales, like, ‘Whatever you do, really do not be a lesbian. You will not have a effective career if you’re a lesbian.’ There was this sentiment that lesbians weren’t welcome, they weren’t what was preferred in the sport. And so, when I skilled for the tour, I was terrified I ran out and got a boyfriend straight away.

“During my several years on tour, it was like a witch hunt to obtain out who was a lesbian. And that was coming from the females and the adult males. It felt like your lifetime was less than a microscope. ‘Lesbian’ was a single of the most derogatory phrases you could phone another person on tour. If the guys could get in touch with you that, it was almost like it discounted your expertise. It was a way to discredit how very well you surfed as a female, due to the fact, in their eyes, you ended up attempting to be like a man. It was a gnarly putdown.

“Towards the finish of my time on tour, I started off to come out. I did not treatment anymore, and I began bringing my girlfriends on tour with me. The response didn’t alter, although. It was like currently being in substantial university. It was this enormous rumor, and all people on tour was chatting about it. It was a significant deal that a person was out and not hiding it. It was these types of a stress. I lived in fear my overall CT job.

Keala Kennelly. Image: Christa Funk / Purple Bull Written content Pool

“It was emotionally harming. I experienced a great deal of internalized shame and homophobia. I hated myself for getting this way. The lying was so really hard. It felt completely wrong to just flat-out lie to men and women. Just…soul-crushing. It was a seriously lonely existence the tour is really cliquey, and I felt like this outsider. I’d go out on tour, compete, have this worry the total time and, as shortly as I was finished, I preferred to go numb myself. I’d fly to towns and just go occasion to numb myself from the practical experience. It was complete self-treatment because it was so really hard to deal with that stuff.

“The globe has surely adjusted a large amount in the last 10 a long time, but sporting activities have been a bit slower – and browsing particularly for some explanation. Each individual other sport – like basketball, football, baseball – they’ve all had men come out as gay. Envision how challenging that was for a football participant. Base line: I assume browsing has arrive a lengthy way, but it still has a long way to go.”


Craig Butler, 27 yrs outdated, 7-time Irish national longboarding champion, born and lifted in Tramore, Co. Waterford

Craig Butler. Photograph: Kevin Doyle

“When I arrived out as gay to my pals through a surf vacation, we spent the night time laughing and fist bumping. They felt empathy toward how I was dwelling my lifestyle, while in the closet, and it was a celebration. For some of my near friends, they were being a little bit pissed — because they couldn’t understand why I invested my decades as a grom in the closet, also afraid of how they may possibly react, when seriously, they had very little but adore and acceptance for me.

“I recall asking them ‘what will I do when x, y and z uncovered out’ and if they didn’t settle for me — they reassured me that it will by no means be a issue, and if it ever did grow to be a challenge to an individual, then that has absolutely nothing to do with me. They stayed legitimate to their phrase and I have by no means encountered unacceptance in the water. The Irish surfing group welcomed my sexuality with open arms and it was an incredible the amount of money of appreciate I obtained from surfers all above the nation.

“But I simply cannot lie, that enjoy feels like it is absent in recent periods. I have been heading as a result of an id crisis and feeling sh** owing to my sexuality. It’s possible the planet was just a additional acceptant spot back in 2015? It was not, it was the correct same, as pointed out to me by a buddy. It’s just now social media is more widespread and persons can cover powering cloaks of anonymity and say whichever they like, with out stressing about the repercussions.

Craig Butler. Photograph: Kevin Doyle

“Unfortunately these repercussions are incredibly real in the LGBTQ neighborhood, extra particularly the LGBTQ browsing local community. It is challenging enough stressing about throwing down the best turn or executing the most effective air — now individuals have to worry about the guilt and shame that accompanies getting locked in the closet and not getting approved by friends. The suicide prices are substantial among LGBT youth thanks to folks wondering there are no penalties to publishing a sh***y write-up conducting a homosexual witch hunt of the prime 32 or commenting ‘we do not care.’

“The globe and surf group is however the loving and accepting spot that it was six a long time back — just regrettably, these trolls now have a voice because of to acquiring a social media account. But that does not signify that you are liked and accepted any less, or it is likely to improve people’s brain about you. You do you in this lifestyle if you are a excellent human being and you shred, then people today are a lot more involved about that than about who you enjoy.”


Pauline Menzcer, 50 decades aged, 1993 environment expert browsing winner, originally from Bondi, Australia, now life in Byron Bay, bus driver.

Pauline circa 1990 – just a kid starting out. Picture:

“When I first bought on tour, just becoming a lady was rather challenging, but it was way a lot more about currently being gay. That was way more durable. When I initial bought on, no person realized I was gay. I did not even know myself back then. I consider I was 21 ahead of I recognized. When I told my mum she just turns all-around and claims, ‘If the birds and bees can do it, I really do not see why people can not.’ I went, ‘Oh my god, mum, I was so anxious to convey to you…and that’s your response?’ I just burst out laughing, but that wasn’t quick.

“On tour was distinct. I watched how the other homosexual females got handled and even noticed how the other feminine surfers treated them. It wasn’t just the men. But it was society at the time I suppose. It could be actually hefty to be homosexual. I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s and I’m listening to about all these homosexual murders. A dude who lived 5 doors up from us in Bondi was pushed off North Head.

“The reality I was gay on Tour wasn’t genuinely an open solution. In the starting I was incredibly peaceful about it. In the stop nevertheless, due to the fact I could see I was genuinely acknowledged and people wished to settle for me for who I was, I didn’t disguise it, but that took a prolonged time. I under no circumstances felt relaxed keeping my girlfriend’s hand or nearly anything like that at the beach front and I’m continue to affected by that right now. When my husband or wife and I go into the pub we never stroll in holding arms.

Pauline successful Bells in 1992. Picture:

“The surf field certainly knew I was homosexual. The only sponsors I acquired have been with people today who did not know. But there ended up two factors. It was remaining homosexual, but they outright instructed my coach that I really don’t have the seem that they wanted. I did not have the blond hair and blue eyes. That’s why I jokingly slash my hair short and dyed it blonde. And then I assumed, you want anyone who stands out? So I dyed my hair blue and received a mohawk. I received the US Open up with a blue mohawk. Remaining homosexual did not enable in heats possibly. Any time there was a close warmth, we in no way gained.

“All the gay surfers on tour, it afflicted them so significantly — even me. I’m quite forward and can just discuss to everyone like I’ve known them for 20 several years, but it damage me. It damage that each and every time I was finding interviewed they generally asked, ‘So, do you have a boyfriend?’ And I’d just always say, ‘No, I really don’t have time for them.’ And then here’s my girlfriend traveling around with me as my ‘coach’.

“The film (‘Ladies Just cannot Surf‘) has really opened up a dialogue. What we’re conversing about nowadays is mainly because of the movie and it’s all fantastic timing. This complete women’s motion is speaking up. And you know, all these items that have been remaining unsaid for so very long, and now everyone’s starting up to communicate about them.”

*Interviews performed by Jamie Brisick, Dashel Pierson, Jason Lock, Sean Doherty


LGBTQ+ Browsing Neighborhood Sources

Benny’s Club

Queer Surf Club


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