Old people are not a sexy subject and the image of surfing is obsessed with youth, especially when it comes to women. Here's a touching short film by Michelle Shearer about the friendship of three surfer ladies: Mary Bryant, Carol Stevenson and Sally Petrie ranging in age from 50 to 64-years-old in New South Wales, Australia.
They don't see their age as a disability but are self-assured in their wisdom both in life and at the peak. Watch and be inspired to age as confidently and gracefully.
As a woman of a certain age and a mother, Michelle wanted to show that the line-up is filled with more than the experienced men, boy groms, and young bikini-clad bombshell stereotypes. Filmmaker Michelle Shearer has assisted her husband, surf journalist Steve Shearer, behind the camera for years and says this short is her first “proper” film.
For a story in GrindTV, Michelle offered more insight to her process as a filmmaker and the women from the film share hilarious and touching life advice.
How did you meet the women featured in the film?
I paddled out fairly soon after the birth of my first child and felt pretty wobbly after residing in the safety of the post baby cocoon for a few weeks and then being out in the wilds of the ocean. I was lucky because that day I paddled out and there was Marg and Sally. I was jittery leaving my newborn daughter on the beach (with my husband) and found it hard to curb my anxiety about being that far away from her, even though it was just from the beach to the line up.
Marg and Sally soothed me and called me into waves. They encouraged me and told me how normal it is to feel that way and that my little daughter would be juuuust fine. The impression that left on me never left me. I guess when anyone is kind and caring it makes an impression particularly from strangers, as they were then.
Why did you want to make a film about them?
Living with a surf journalist for a husband means that we are immersed in surf media at home and the experience I had with Sally, Marg and later Carol was in stark and jarring contrast to how the surf media and large companies portray female surfers. I was disillusioned by the portrayal of women and felt that it had nothing to do with me even though I am female and surf. What Sally, Marg and Carol brought to the line up— those qualities resonated a whole lot more to me. They seemed to transcend the base white sexist noise of the surf media and I felt compelled to express that contrast in some way and put it out there; hence the film.
What did you see that made them special and unique amongst female surfers in the community?
They bring an atmosphere of ease and generosity and warmth. An atmosphere that seemed to transcend the ego that can be scattered about in abundance in any line-up. There is no competition or hassling for waves with them, everyone takes turns and genuinely happy when someone gets a good wave. They smile when they surf. I love that. If you look closely at some of the shots on the film you can see them smiling. Often you see people on waves—probably me included—and faces can be so serious.
What messages do you hope that people get out of the film?
I wanted them film to bring older women back into the fore somehow. The surf industry seems to be in an unhealthy obsessive frenzy over the physical attributes and sexiness of female surfers ignoring their prowess but also many other variations on the female theme. We are so varied and different and have so much more to contribute. I wanted to bring some of those unique qualities that older women, in particular, bring not only to the line-up, but to the community as a whole. And older women because they are so very worthy of our attention and imitation and yet they are most ignored probably.
Any life lessons/golden wisdom/advice to share?
Marg: “Always believe in yourself, it doesn’t usually let you down. I’ve been amazed sometimes in the surf when I just believe I can, and have a go. It’s never too late to learn to surf, but with two very important things to start with: not afraid of the ocean and can swim to shore if you need to. It’s hard work for awhile and then it’s “pure bliss” with a few knocks, bruises and wipeouts.
Carol: “God this is a hard question”
Sally: “It's all about the breath. The breath brings you back in touch with your self, calms you, gives you time to reflect, relaxes the mind and the body. Forget the breath and you are uptight, anxious, rushing. Life can be too short. Learn to breathe.
What’s the difference in your priorities between today and twenty years ago?
Marg: “My priority of the day is a surf and then the rest of the day. Funny thing, as I was doing some dusting this morning and I thought, 'My, housework is certainly not my priority, it’s howling onshore and there’s nothing better to do.' Twenty years ago surfing was the last thing on my mind. I would never have dreamed I would be surfing again at 64-years-old and feel so blessed that I “discovered” the stoke again. I can’t imagine life without a surf every day possible now. I want to surf till my body says I can’t.
Carol: “The only difference is having children. Kids are number one. Then it's a toss up between the husband and the surf. I'm lucky that I have one who doesn't need ironed shirts and he likes takeaway food.”
Sally “I was super woman, or thought I had to be! Homemaker, wife, mother, businesswoman, caregiver, nurturer, organizer, and responsible for everyone’s happiness. A Chinese doctor once told me, "Open one eye, close the other." I got it! I am still all of those things, but I breath, have a fresh look, take time to listen and share and don't take all of the weight onto my own shoulders. No one actually said I had to anyway—only me!"