I recently watched It Ain’t Pretty, a documentary about the women who surf the heavy, and often well-overhead, waves at Ocean Beach, San Francisco. I loved the sisterhood of the surfers portrayed in the film and the ultimate message of the film: women overcoming challenges and sexism that are rampant in the surf industry. The film focuses in on Bianca Valenti’s journey from childhood phenom to big-wave charger. Seeing images of authentic women getting out there and ripping is inspiring. After watching the film, I had to reach out to filmmaker Dayla Soul to ask her a few questions.
What inspired you to make this film?
I have been a surfer my whole life. I grew up on the north shore of Kauai where I learned to surf. Now living near Ocean Beach in San Francisco I have been surfing here for 20 years. I noticed other women surfing here would go out when it was fairly big. I would see them drop in to solid 15 footers. One particular women I would see actually getting barreled on big days turned out to be Bianca Valenti. I kind of wondered if there were any female surfing films of women that surfed here in Norcal. After doing a little research I only found one that was about Sarah Gerhardt and how she was the first women to surf Mavericks. The film was called One Winter Story directed by Elizabeth Pepin Silva and Sally Lundburg. That was pretty much it on women in Big Waves films that I found. I was perplexed because there are a lot of films on women surfing but they are usually in warm water surfing small waves in bikinis set to soft girl genre music. So one day after getting out of the water I was like, why don’t I make a short feature on couple of the girls surfing here and rent out our local theater? Long story short, it just spiraled into a much bigger story and project. I thought of the title before I even started filming. I was tired of seeing the same bikini images in surfing, and I wanted the title to represent that it is not always pretty. Sometimes it’s gnarly cold water in wetsuits!
What do you think is the most important message in the film?
My goal was to put out real footage on everyday dedicated surfers. Not necessarily professionals but super courageous women that surf everyday. To create images of women doing something that inspires others. Especially the youth. To use surfing as a metaphor in life to go out and get it!
What were the challenges in making this film?
Money was and still is a big challenge in filmmaking. I ran a Kickstarter early on that enabled me to buy good camera equipment. However, much of the film was paid for out of pocket. It was difficult juggling jobs while paying for the film. I’m happy that it is out there and finished. I’m not sure if I will make any money back, but I feel proud of the accomplishment and love that there is now a film that represents us in Norcal.
What is your relationship with surfing and the ocean?
I am married to the sea ! At times we battle, but we love each other. Surfing is everything to me!
What does it mean to you to “surf like a girl”?
A girl that surfs. Redefining what it is to be a women in the water is owning who we have always been. Taking back the view of being misrepresented in the world. Nothing has changed with us except peoples perspectives on what they think a girl can do. However it doesn’t mean we haven’t been doing those things all along.
Okay, tell us about your name?
My mom was a hippie and gave us interesting names. My brothers name is Corderoy. So that kinda how I walked away with this name. I was happy to find out about the band De La Soul in my 20’s. That kinda made me feel cool.
Any last thoughts?
The main thing I want people to get from the film is that anything is possible if you put your mind and “Soul” to it. Including holding the media accountable for images that misrepresent 90% of female surfing and give young girls a false standard to try and live up to.
Thank you, Dayla, for showing us what women’s surfing is all about–not string bikinis in crystal clear waves, but bad-ass women in full-suits, gloves, and hoods going out into macking, icy waves and totally charging!