A 2002 Film Anticipated Big Changes in the Surfing World

Revisiting the legacy of "Blue Crush"

Moana Jones Wong of Hawaii surfs in the Women’s Final at the Billabong Pro Pipeline on February 06, 2022 in Haleiwa, Hawaii.
Koji Hirano/Getty Images

Travel to Oahu’s North Shore and you’ll arrive at one of the most iconic locations for surfing in the world — Pipeline, a space Surfer Today described as “one of the biggest, heaviest waves on the planet.” That’s made it a destination for surfing competitions for years now.

As a new article in the New York Times points out, Pipeline is also the latest surfing hotspot where steps have been taken to address gender inequality in the sport. As the article points out, the plot of the 2002 film Blue Crush involved female surfers competing at Pipeline. And while the cast of the film included some notable surfers, reality wouldn’t catch up with the film’s plotline until decades later.

It’s a case of life imitating art imitating life. Blue Crush was based on an Outside article by Susan Orlean. And while the film was a work of fiction, it received high marks for imparting a sense of authenticity. In his review, Roger Ebert wrote that the film “knows something most surfing movies don’t acknowledge — that many non-pro surfers endure blue-collar jobs as a way to support their surfing, which is the only time they feel really alive.”

In the years since its release, the film has found its audience. Writing in Wavelength last year, Sophie Everard noted that it “[captured] an entire generation of teenage girl’s imaginations.” As the Times article pointed out, female surfers competing at Pipeline is of a piece with a larger push towards gender equality in sports. Did a sports movie from early in the century play a part in that? It just might have.

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