Filmmaker challenges women’s surfing stereotypes

By on September 15, 2016

surf-1Dayla Soul has spent most of her life living by the coast and looking for the next big swell. But what she found while surfing Ocean Beach, Calif. for the past two decades was that the true story of women’s surfing needed to be told.

She tells that story in “It Ain’t Pretty,” which will air on the big screen at the Dare County Arts Council in downtown Manteo Friday.

The documentary is a featured film in this year’s Surfalorus Film Festival, which kicked off Thursday.

Not long after Soul began filming the documentary on the women who surf the icy breaks of Ocean Beach and Mavericks, she soon realized she had an opportunity to change the way people are talking about women out in the line up.

So as Soul interviews women surfers who go up against the biggest waves on the planet, her film is going up against some longstanding stereotypes about women’s surfing.

Featuring big wave surfer Bianca Valenti, Soul describes the documentary as a film “about the challenges and triumphs of female big wave surfers fighting sexism in the water, in competition, in the media and in the surf industry.”

Like Soul, the female surfers she interviews are standing up against the status quo in and out of the water. “There’s been a turning point in surf history and how we see ourselves in it,” surfer Easkey Britton says in the film, which first aired in February.

“The way the media portrays female surfers is really skewed,” says big wave surfer Mika Kosaka in the film. She along with other surfers interviewed talk about what it’s like to be a minority in the surfing industry.

“We need to break down the whole idea of sexualizing everything,” surfer Rebecca Sandidge says in the film. “There’s nothing sexual about surfing.”

Since it first aired, “It Ain’t Pretty” has been featured at 10 film festivals, including the Maui Film Festival, New York City’s Women’s Surf Film Festival and the Honolulu Surf Film Festival.

“I was originally just going to put it to music and show it in a local theater, but it turned into a bigger story for the rest of the world,” says Soul, a native of Hanalei, Hawaii who owns a tile installation company in San Francisco “This film is meant to empower women. Sexism is still in the world, and my film shows it through the eyes of surfers. We as women need to step out of the box that the media puts us in that we need to look a certain way. That’s inaccurate.”

Soul began filming in March of 2013 and soon after launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $36,000 for equipment.

“Things spiraled and doors opened,” said Soul, who uses aerial photography, drones, water photography and other media to bring big wave surfing to viewers.

“Told through the lens of surfing, this film is about creating new role models based on ability and determination. It’s not just about the waves,” says Soul. “This film empowers a new generation of girls to live their dreams and overcome the challenges they face along the way.”

It Ain’t Pretty will begin at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Dare County Arts Council in downtown Manteo. The Surfalorus Collector’s Classic Longboard Exhibit reception will begin at 6 p.m. with film screenings to follow.

For more information, call the Dare County Arts Council at (252) 473-5558 or visit

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