Choosing a spot on the beach should be easy. Facing the sea with a little shade and catching the breeze… Not much else to worry about. Unless you’re a female surfer in a small Latin American surf town trying to find a place to hang and watch the waves undisturbed by “los boys.” Roughly the same in every spot, an unruly group of males from grom to grandpa hang in packs and shoot the shit. They’re the first people you meet when you arrive at the beach. Heads snap towards you as though brunette-to-blonde follows some natural law of magnetics. You hope to learn where the rocks are, if there’s a sand pit, if the spot is tide sensitive. They hope to bang you.
And so an unusual friendship is born: one of pained tolerance on the part of the woman and sidelined hope on the part of the man. As time passes, and more young blondes too, their ardor fades and you’re be able to just sit and watch the waves with less attention. You’re never completely their “friend” because most of them would still eagerly spend the night with you but you are able to count on them for a texted surf report or a lent leash.
To sit with one is not so bad; pleasant, even. Two is still okay. But when the pack gains mass, when the crew is sitting in the afternoon and sharing whatever shriveled, brown, seeded weed someone has managed to scrounge together, then it is time to leave. No shady hammock is worth overhearing the nonsense that is about to ensue. The boasting of girls met, the objectification of girls observed, the generally vile and overly descriptive comments of things that make your blood boil because you are a woman and, hey dudes, you’re sitting right there.
The challenge of choosing someplace else to sit is that you now know the content of the conversation. You know that to sit away from them is to be observed by them, to potentially become fodder for their commentary. This is challenging enough when you’re out surfing and you’ve already worked hard not to let their imagined laughs at your wipeout halt you from still going for the next wave. Does it have to follow you everywhere you go? Is there no place on land or sea that is free of their eyes?
It feels unfair. It feels as though you’re stuck in a perpetual junior high, the Groundhog’s Day of adolescent-level male attention. You want to change it, transform it, encourage them to be better versions of themselves. You’ve experienced them as individuals when they show you their true potential. You’re convinced you can be the impetus of their evolution (you can't).
You can tsk tsk, argue, shame, shout — they will undoubtedly enjoy it. To engage is what they crave. You can also try to be “one of the boys,” shocking them with your equal capacity for vulgarities. They will enjoy this too. To participate in any way is to encourage; you will never win, never place yourself on top and in control of the conversation.
Their capacity for surfing is not the result of their idiocy. You are in no way required to act and speak like them in order to surf like them. When the flow of viable surf tips is tapped in favor of pointless drivel their usefulness has subsided. When the groups congeals it’s simply time to leave. Your departure is the loudest statement you can make.