Surf's up, girls

More women hanging 10

By Coralie Carlson

Associated Press

MIAMI -- Champion surfer Karina Petroni is seeing more and more women riding the waves these days.

"Almost every time I go out to the water I see more girls and sometimes more girls than guys," said Petroni, a 14-year-old amateur from Atlantic Beach.


The surge in surfer girls, apparently given a boost by the summer movie "Blue Crush," is already evident in surfing competitions.

The 1997 East Coast Wahine Championship had 76 competitors, predominantly from North Carolina where the event was held. Last year, there were 250 surfers representing every state on the Eastern Seaboard and the Bahamas, said Anne Beasley, the event's director.

Women still make up just 12 percent to 17 percent of all surfers, but the actual number has gone up 120 percent in the last three years, said Paul West, president of the United States Surfing Federation. According to Board-Trac Inc., which researches board sports participation. About 150,000 females ages 12-19 surf.

Stephanie Williams and her sister, Nicole Cabral, used to drive an hour north of Miami or farther to find women's surfing gear. Now the owners of a surf shop for women, they say August has been their best month this summer -- and they have "Blue Crush" to thank.

Williams said she's placed orders for at least 12 boards since the movie about young women who dream of becoming professional surfers opened last Friday.

The Wahine Blue shop makes custom boards for women, which are often shorter and sometimes thicker for beginners, Williams said. The boards are decorated to a female taste, sometimes with turtles, flowers or a beach fabric pattern.

Williams said she recommends beginners take a lesson before paying at least $350 for a new board or $180 for a used one.

Petroni, a home-schooled ninth grader, didn't wait for the trend. She started surfing five years ago and catches waves twice a day.


She won the National Scholastic Surfing Association's open women's surfing competition in June and has captured two other national girls' titles since then.

"Surfing is such a free thing," Petroni said. "You feel so at peace with yourself when you're in the ocean and you look at the horizon and there's nothing there. ... You're actually riding a storm."

United States Surfing Federation:

East Coast Wahine

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