Bored on the Beach - Ges Wallace

"I got a little bit bored sitting on the beach. I mean, I love beaches, but I rarely just sit on the beach. I like to do something. I had a horse up in North Devon and was spending time riding, but then my boyfriend would disappear for hours out surfing, and I thought: "OK – I'll learn to surf!" It was no desire to be competitive – it was just "I'll go and try it and see what it's like" and then I just loved it.

"There were probably only two or three (girls) at the time, sometimes I'd be the only girl out there, it was OK – I just wanted to do it. You'd get all sorts. You'd get the pervy "Oh I like seeing you in a wetsuit" bit, the "What are you doing out here?" bit or "Good on you!". You'd get everything and sometimes you had to just let things go over your head. I wanted to have fun and enjoy it. I didn't want to be involved in all of that.

"Most people I knew in the group around me were not completely supportive, but very accepting. I found I didn't like the macho bit of it. I didn't like the posturing, the posing, but again I thought "I don't want to deal with the negativity. I don't want to get involved in arguments about it". A couple of times I probably locked horns with someone and said: "OK we'll agree to disagree, I'm backing off". But I was very used to being in mixed groups and I felt OK. I didn't think I had to hang out with the girls. Couldn't really hang out with the girls unless you wanted to sit on the beach! I wanted to do something.

"I did compete, but I wasn't that interested in it. I competed really because the people I was with were going to the contests, so I thought "Oh, I might as well" and it was sort of important to think:"It's the beginning of competitive women's surfing, you should join in and you should support it". But it wasn't "Yeh I wanna be really good", because I wasn't. There were a lot better girl surfers than me beginning to compete. So, for me, it was much more a lifestyle choice rather than a competitive sport choice. I did the English Nationals. I won the English at Gwenver (1980) and we went to Jersey and did the British (1982). That was good fun. But it wasn't that hard. To win the English I probably only did two heats. It's not like it is now at all.

"Women surfers as athletes are far more recognised and they train much harder, but we still are in a society of the commodification of women ... and those bums sell the wetsuits and bikinis don't they and I guess the girls who get sponsored are locked into that. I was sponsored by Second Skin wetsuits. That was another thing; you couldn't get the wetsuits really! There were off the peg women's wetsuits, but they never seemed to fit at all. So, you had to have them made. But very kindly Andy (from Second Skin) would give me the wetsuits. It wasn't a big money deal at the time. It was early on. I was very grateful for the wetsuits!"

Ges Wilson Wallace (far right). Skewjack regular 1978 - 1982 and National Women's Champion. By kind permission of Jersey Surfboard Club.