“Surfing culture is not separate to the broader culture and there’s widespread homophobia and bullying. Surfing developed particularly primarily in Australia around these groups of me going on surf trips hunting the waves, going surfing together. That’s not to say women weren’t involved but they were marginalised, they were pushed to the margins of these groups. And one of the things that happens when you get these groups of guys bonding like that is that you will get this sort of homophobia come out because you somehow have to sort of draw a line between this cannot be interpreted as homoerotic. So you either objectify women and that leads to this sexism or you work on the premise that we must prove our heterosexuality.” – Dr. Clifton Evers
Out in the Lineup is an award-winning documentary, available on Netflix, that features the experiences and stories of gay surfers from all around the world. In 2011, after 20 years of silence, former state champion surfer David Wakefield does a Google search which leads him to gaysurfers.net, the world’s first online community for gay surfers, founded by Thomas Castets. Wakefield reaches out to Castets and they become close friends. Castets encourages Wakefield to come out very publicly in front of hundreds and thousands of people at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. A photograph of Wakefield lands him on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald which stirred up many strong reactions. The backlash inspired Wakefield and Castets with an idea and they structure a mission to journey from the east coast of Australia to Hawaii, California, Mexico, and the Galapagos Islands to meet gay surfers, confront the surf industry, provoke conversation, challenge stereotypes, and build a community.
‘I’m one of the best surfers in my country and I’m gay. I never came out and I don’t plan on it. But I heard about this film and I thought people would say, “Gay people whining again. If they didn’t go on about it so much there wouldn’t be so much hate against them.” But they’re wrong and missing the point. It’s been made so young people who are in the closet will feel it’s ok to be gay. Surfing’s a macho sport. It’s about respect in and out of the water. I think a lot of gay surfers feel that being gay makes you less of a man and people will judge you. Maybe that’s not the case as long as you charge. I think it’s time someone made a surf film about this. It might help people come to terms with their sexuality in the surf world. I know for me, it would have made growing up and travelling with surf teams and accepting myself a lot easier.’ – A letter from an anonymous surfer (later in the film identified as Craig Butler)
Surfing is built on a foundation of free spiritedness, broad-mindedness, and connection to nature. This “poofter-bashing” culture is a total paradox; in the surfing world of such “laid-back, peace-loving surfer dudes,” being openly gay is a completely taboo issue, even today. This documentary belongs in our archive because it is a perfect demonstration of the damaging effects of queer normative culture. Even in a sport such as surfing, where one would imagine there to be open-minded, liberal thinking and accepting behavior, homosexual people are shunned and “hushed.” Partly because of funding factors and partly because of the masculinity that is associated with surf culture, many gay and lesbians surfers keep their sexual identities a secret.
‘The precedent that’s been set is that if you are gay or we think you’re gay then you’re out and that social coercion is the most powerful coercion that exists in the surfing world.’ – Cori Schumacher
Out in the Lineup relates to our gender unit. Throughout the documentary we meet many different gay and lesbian surfers who all fall in different places on the gender-normative spectrum. One surfer, Riley Herman, says in the film, “Sometimes I’ve had people say, ‘Oh, you don’t seem gay.’” The central theme around this documentary is the fact that surfing culture is strongly centered around masculine gender roles, and violating those roles is violating unspoken “rules” in surf culture, and intensifying homophobic attitudes. It relates to the contemporary unit because it discusses the harmful effects of a hetero-normative society on gay youth even today. It relates to the history unit because throughout history gays and lesbians were constantly shunned and pushed out of sports soley because of their sexual preferences.
‘I don’t think surfing is that overt about its homophobia, I think that there’s just this general understanding that, you know, if you’re gay cool but just don’t tell anyone about it.’ – Fred Pawle
Although sexual preference is just one part of a person’s identity, it can be a huge life-changing factor for individuals who don’t fit in with hetero-normative stereotypes. This documentary tells the stories of hundreds of people, whom were apart of a community to which they didn’t truly feel they belong. Although they connected with other surfers based on their love of the sport, hiding their true identities lead many of them to depression and even suicide. Out in the Lineup is significant because it explores sociological structures and units and the pain it causes individuals to hide their true selves. It brings together people from all around their world who thought that they were alone, and reminds them that of course, they are not.
“The realm of sexuality also has its own internal politics, inequities, and modes of oppression. As with other aspects of human behavior, the concrete institutional forms of sexuality at any given time and place are products of human activity. They are imbued with conflicts of interest and political maneuver, both deliberate and incidental. In that sense, sex is always political.”- Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex: Notes for the Radical Theory of Politics of Sexuality”