Women's surfing all bikinis and bums: sponsors

TEENY bikinis, pert bottoms and glamorised swim shots - welcome to the marketing world of women's surfing.

Research by a Southern Cross University lecturer shows sexualisation of female surfers is robbing them of income and competition opportunities.

"When female surfers are being sponsored by a company, they are asked to represent themselves in a certain way, and a lot of that is bikinis and backsides," said Dr Roslyn Franklin, of the School of Education.

"Marketers neglect to look at performance but that's what the viewers want."

MORE: Byron surfer tells of industry struggles as a woman

She said this overt and superficial marketing affected audience numbers and, therefore, potential sponsors.

"My research shows women surfers are able to earn only half of what male surfers make on the professional circuit," she said.

Dr Franklin, who lectures in Personal Development Health and Physical Education, has herself surfed for more than 40 years and was an original member of the Queensland Women's Boardriders Club in the 1970s, competing at local, state and national levels.

"I was ranked number 12 in Australia," she said.

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Her PhD research, Making Waves, examined the lifestyle marketing and sponsorship of female surfers.

"I wanted to investigate the inequity issues surrounding their sponsorship," Dr Franklin said.

"In particular I wanted to examine the differences in sponsorship arrangements between men and women by the big three companies, Rip Curl, Billabong and Roxy."

Dr Franklin said that when pro surfer Stephanie Gilmore did an ad for the Roxy Pro Biarritz in France she was shown in the shower, on a bed and in a bikini.

"Stephanie is a terrific ambassador for the sport but the ad never really showed her surfing," she said.

Dr Franklin said some surf and swimwear sponsors specified that the athletes they supported had to wear bikinis and be photographed from behind.

"Generally most of the companies want blonde, blue-eyed girls and if the girls don't have that look, they miss out," she said.

"But the number of people watching women's sport is growing and they don't want to see tight bikinis - they want to see pictures of amazing performances."

She said inequality in sport was widespread and she was shocked to discover the Matildas were paid much less than the Socceroos in match fees for making the women's World Cup final.

They received $500 each per match while their male counterparts would have received $7500 for doing the same thing.