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srrfrgrrls | Elizabeth Pepin

Liz Pepin's life revolves around her job as an associate producer at KQED, her photography, and surfing. She says that she has friends that have literally dropped out of society to live out their obsession with the water. While she understands the lure of that option, she's chosen instead to opt for a pretty flexible career.

"We've lived in our house six months now, and there are still a ton of unpacked boxes because we're gone from morning on Saturday until night on Sunday. I could never fully drop out... I have too many other interests. My photography, my journalism, making documentaries, I could never just drop out and give those up. You only get to go around once, as far as I know, and it's important for me to have balance. I don't want it to just be about surfing, but I certainly try and do it as much as possible." Liz primarily surfs longboards now and roves the coast from Marin to Santa Cruz on the weekends. "I surfed shortboards for the first 7 years, but I kind of feel like I did that, and I was OK. I'm not as good at longboarding, and I want to get better at that now."

The surfing population has skyrocketed in recent years, and there are increasing numbers in the water, men, and women. I asked Liz how she felt about that, and the changes she saw in the water as a result. She said, "Sometimes I go to Linda Mar, and there's like 50 people in the water and a lot of people who are just learning to surf. Guys who can't control their boards because they're not that good, and they don't know or don't follow the rules of the road. I'll be going down the line, and they're still paddling for the wave, about to drop in. That sucks!

Sometimes I grab the nose of their board and toss them off the wave. My boyfriend calls me 'Lawnmower Pepin'... she sees 'em and she mows 'em down!' But it's just that I think guys will do that, especially to women... at least, they do that way more to me than they do to Dave.

He's a big guy, and I guess they think I'm a girl, so I'm not going to catch it, or that I won't say anything. I think there is still so much sexism in the surf, and it really bothers me. That's kind of what my photos are about. I mean, I don't have a problem with the Reef ads, if, on the next page, there was a shot of a girl ripping it up advertising sandals, advertising wetsuits, whatever. There just aren't that many advertisements showing women in a positive way... maybe the token Roxy ad, or Vans, with Megan Abubo, but other than that, it's virtually non-existent."

Elizabeth's black and white photographic portraits document the emerging women's surf scene on the West Coast. She says in her artist's statement:

"I have embarked on a photographic journey to dispel the 'beach babe' myth and discover the real image of women's surfing in California; capturing on film the strong, beautiful waterwomen that I know and surf with. The California women and girls in this series are real. Refusing to sit on the sand, waiting for their boyfriends or husbands to get out of the water, these women are in the line-up alongside the men, catching waves and holding their own."

She said to me about her work, "If it was your typical surf shot that you see in the magazines, I don't think people would look at them as much. It's a little more grainy, a little rawer. Ron Church and Doc Ball, early surf photographers, are big influences in my work. I kind of feel like the women's surf movement is in its infancy, in a lot of ways. My photographs harken back to that earlier era."

Inspired, stoked... we finished our sushi, and shared more surf stories. Liz is off on a surf trip with Dave for the next two weeks, down to Cabo San Jose (the southern tip of Baja). I'm heading out on a road trip with my brothers and my mom, to go river rafting in Utah and camping in Colorado and Oklahoma. Liz and I make plans to go surfing together down in Santa Cruz when I get back, and I make her promise to keep a journal of her Mexico trip. Tune in next time for our adventures... in the next srrfrgrrls.

From the Withitgirl ARCHIVE: August 2000

By Sally Lundburg / Photos by Spencer Klein

Check out Elizabeth's photos at: On the Water Front Creative


Sally Lundburg is a Contributing Editor at withitgirl. Her columns srrfrgrrls and off the lip appeared monthly.

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