Coming Out: To Be a Gay Surfer

Thomas, the Founder of, finds perfection in West Timor.

“For all of the eye-opening experiences associated with the sport of surfing, there still seems to be very little mention or acknowledgment of surfing’s gay community,” says GaySurfers.Net Founder, Thomas C. (pictured in West Timor).

Surfers like to travel, and, luckily, our nomadic tendencies give us the opportunity to learn about the world’s races, religions, and sexual orientations. However, for all of the eye-opening experiences associated with the sport of surfing, there still seems to be very little mention or acknowledgment of surfing’s gay community. There are homosexuals all around the world, in every family, profession, sport and community…and, yes, even in surfing. Although it may challenge the “tough surfer bloke” stereotype, there’s not much we can (nor should) do about it. It’s what we call diversity. It’s a good thing. Sadly, as a longtime surfer, I’ve found that a tragic number of gay surfers are closeted, largely as a result of the sport’s tilt towards homophobia.

This is where the Internet provides a powerful tool for diversity through community building. Like surfing, the Internet has the power to connect people in an instant, and since there’s actually a sizeable homosexual population within the surf community, I was hoping to find a website where gay surfers could meet, speak, and exchange ideas. I searched online for years, but never found one. It begged the questions: Where are all the gay surfers hiding? And why are they hiding?

So one day last year, while riding a wave of optimism and outrage, I decided to build it myself. was born in February 2010 as the first online community for gay surfers. Our mission is simple: to create an interesting and fun site where gay men and women can gather, connect, and share their passion for surfing and other related issues. We keep it clean, interactive, and easy to navigate, and I’ve been amazed at how quickly it has grown. In the first six months, 2,300 gay surfers registered from 76 countries worldwide. That’s quite an accomplishment considering that in the long, decorated history of our sport, only two professional surfers have ever openly shared the fact that they are gay (to my knowledge). You can even name them: Matt Branson and Robbins Thompson. (Thanks guys!)

I get a lot of feedback from members who say that the site has allowed them to realize that they are not alone. It’s an important realization, because mainstream surf media has made few attempts to extend a hand to our community. Our site breaks down prejudice and builds up self-esteem by creating a network of openly gay surfers who understand the trials of being homosexual within surf culture; essentially, we’re making it easier for them to accept themselves. That’s a big part of our mission: to remove shame from the equation and help gay surfers be the best they can be.

I’m especially happy to see so many young surfers joining the community, because I find that the younger guys who are just discovering their homosexuality need the most support and encouragement – especially in light of recent, tragic news of homophobic bullying and suicides among gay teenagers.

It’s not easy to come out to all your mates, but if you want to be happy, I believe it’s necessary. For many years, I hid my own identity as a gay surfer. I thought I’d be excluded if my surf mates knew the truth… until I actually told them and realized they didn’t give a damn! Yep, by the time I divulged my big secret, my mates had traveled the world and been exposed to a lot of different ways of life, so my homosexuality didn’t strike them as a very big deal.

As grows, I hope our message of acceptance and understanding spreads throughout the global surfing community. Nomads unite! Gay or straight, we all share a passion for the greatest sport in the world.

19 thoughts on “Coming Out: To Be a Gay Surfer

  1. Great article Thomas!
    Is there going to be a sequal?
    Im still struggling a bit but as you said this site has made it easier to accept myself as being gay and has actually helped remove shame and guilt from my soule! thank you Thomas and together as a family we will continue to push forward!
    Many Mahalo’s,

  2. good piece…
    they should run it in the surf/sporting mag’z…
    hell!!! it should run in all the media…
    we all need to be out… to publish works like this… and most of all show how we master the sport.

  3. It’s a great piece and it states many truths – especially the truth that one cannot be truly happy while hiding who they are from friends and family – and other surfers.

    I wote about Gay Surfers on my blog, Michael-in-Norfolk and on The Bilerico Project because I believe in your goal. We do need to unite and live our lives authentically because it’s the best way to changes hearts and minds.

  4. It’s strange that among all the lesbian surfers I know, all of them are out and proud and totally empowered by the sport. Even on the pro circuit there are estimates that around 80% of the women competing are lesbians. So wotzup guys? Is surfing the last bastion of male homophobia, or what? And if so, let’s bust down the closet doors, pronto!

  5. gay men have surfing for years.. as have many surfing men been gaying for years. i’d suggest the ‘comin out’ is gradual and voluntary.. the entrenched homophobia in surfing culture would kick back (violently) if its sudden and in your face…. its only a matter of time and cool tempered integration.

  6. I think this site is excellent thomas. i struggle to find like minded guys that love the sport and all things that attribute this lifestyle. lucky these days its not such a hurdle but i do remember years ago being outed at apoint break when i was not there and the fear and shit that people spoke and thoughts were terrible. ! But Alas good friends around you soons show the ignorant people from the nice people.

    Now my straight mates keep looking out for me for a partner!

    Excuse me mate! excellent wave you had there! you wouldnt be gay by any chance i have this mate?? LOl

    Keep up the great work Thomas

    Cheers Simon

  7. Dear Thomas,

    Congratulation for a such honest article. I totally agree with you on the fact that the straight surfers do not care about homosexuality. “Stay yourself and be the most natural you can, will help you to have your place in this world”. It is easy to write that at 43 years old, but your website is very important for the young gay men and women, and to my opinion, you can be very proud if you help some of them to achieve their “coming out”.

  8. I heartily endorse everything you say! And I totally agree young gay people need all the support we can give them! Sadly the ‘public’ in general, have still a long way to go in banishing their fear of differance! Fear! In my view, it our biggest challenge, whatever our persuasion. Thanks Nick(London.UK)

    1. Hi Marcus, thanks for your good luck wish. The contest went really well, it was a very gay event and we all surfed our heart’s out, girl’s and boy’s. If you can swing it, come on down under for coastout 2011. Thanks Marcus, :)mich

  9. Great article, no doubt, great picture, oh yeah. If just everything were that easy to everyone. I just think that every one’s got their singular story, embed in individual circumstances, and there might be a difference between different countries, cultures, company and different levels of social terrain.
    Certainly I’m glad to have found out there are indeed more gay surfers all throughout the world. Still it’s all new a discovery, it could be some secret island of sorts and there’s way for fresh hopes of some day in the future to gain understanding friends who do after all, join in out on the water.
    Aye, it does take off from the shameful feelings to know, there’s others, and it takes away the vast inner loneliness of the past, so I’m very thankful there’s that site!

    Yet I think all the coming ouit process must remain an issue of privacy and individual decisions, one should not be talked over to try, if the signs of hope are all to rely on not to lose all one’s dearest buddies. Someone’s crowd may accept him, after they know, and that’s great, if he’s really that lucky. Others are likely better off if they rather not jump on it. ( With my people I can’t forsee any acceptance, and I like them so I don’t want to lose everything again just because of one single of my traits ) It’s something up to everyone individual and it shouldn’t be enforced upon everyone to do.
    I can’t picture myself truely happy if I would lose my friends. Yet online friends can be support and offer some space to rest and communicate and everything, if you’re left alone at your shore because things are not likely to work out the way you wish for them, this would rather chase away the happy spirits. Experience, as perfect as it came to be to your case, is an individual thing, too.

    So I think it’s okay to find other gay sports mates and keeping the worlds apart would be as good as it gets for now.
    Hey, there’s others after all — no haste in grabbing for all the stars at once. It doesn’t mean that there’s no way that might change, if I had the direct support, a bunch of gay mates or the impossible to give me some cute speedwave pirate dude for a life’s matey *lol* but that’s wishful dreaming so far.

    To show yer rainbow colored board and sail in public, too, is something the secure and couraged folks might choose.
    However, I’ve written novels before, that deal with some issues on surfer boys falling in love.

  10. Hi Thomas, you sound like a nice man. I have just competed in the worlds first gay surf contest, “coastout” at Coffs Harbour,Australia. Offshore 2 to 4 foot lefts n rights, Gallows beach.It was great,absolutely fabulous. The whole contest was the real deal, yet outstandingly GAY.On a personal front, I did’nt surf that well, I got so smashed at the welcome coctail party,lol… lesson learnt, never mix champagne and white wine. Regardless,
    we surfed like there was no tomorrow,
    the crowd was supportive and I felt strangely proud to be a poof where normally at the beach I kind of keep my head down (so to speak).So all you gay surfer’s out there, especially you American guy’s and girl’s come on out down under for the 2011 coastout, please come,it was so much fun.:)mich

  11. Hi Thomas

    I found your article very interesting to read. As you may already know I was featured in this Years June edition of DNA that was an article written by Nick Cook’s ‘Surf’s OUT’ about being Gay and being a Kite Surfer. In my article I mentioned that I didn’t experience any direct homophobia because I choose to practice my sport alone through a personal preference to Kite surf with more space away from the ‘traffic’. In my article I also stated that I feel completely lonely. Kite Surfing is a minority group in the realm of Surfing. I’ve felt that perhaps I need to travel to other beaches around the world to find my Kite Surfing partner.

    In my other common sports whether it be football/soccer it is common to have a community of openly gay participants but in my sport it is still very closeted. Since my article was written I had MANY surfers in the community comment and say ‘I really like what you said, what you said is genuine and really down to earth and true. I can relate to what you are talking but I myself didn’t have the confidence to do it’. This surprised me because I had no idea that any of these guys read DNA or were even in the closet! However I understand there comments because I understand the nature of the sport, it is very unique. It isn’t a social sport where you can spend a lot of time standing around talking to each other or sharing the camaraderie of a team. Surfing is a very much a lifestyle sport and way of life. We go out and Surf on our own boards at one with nature and it is a release from the stresses of everyday life when we go out and surf it is completely dependant on mother nature, it is sacred time for us and sometimes it is so good the way it is that guys just feel that they can justify staying in the closet because they feel that life is already good the way it is and it probably isn’t anyone’s business what sexuality they are. When you are sitting there in the sun on top of the waves you relies that all that matters is that it is you and Mother Nature.

    At the end of the day I also want the gay community to also understand that because of the unique nature of the sport and the fact that surfing is a lifestyle and culture it becomes hard to find someone else that is genuine that also shares my passion and enthusiasm for my surfing lifestyle. I have had many ‘non surfing’ guys out there approach me with ‘fantasies of sharing experiences with an image of a stereotypical bronzed and ripped surfer dude’ but this isn’t what I am looking for. I’ve found something that that brings me joy and happiness because I am truly passionate and enthusiastic about surfing but I relise now that joy and happiness is best when shared and appreciated with those you love.

    Will I just be single for the rest of my life pursuing my passion?


  12. Hi Thomas,
    Firstly great job on the site. I am 33 and have only recently come out to my close friends and I have to say they have all been awsome and I truely believe I am very lucky to have them. Like many of the other writers, it was a really difficult period of my life coming to terms with everything and actually accepting myself for who I really am. I am now more confident than I have ever been and can now have open conversations with my friends and not hide and have the double life I led for many years. I also realise thats it not that easy for other guys to have the same experience I did with my friends. Whether we like it or not there is still a certain percentage of homophobic people in this world who simply will not accept who we are. But somehow this site will help people I am sure of it. I love to surf and kite surf and basically anything that gets me into the water and with nature.

    Thomas, keep up the great work and thank you.

    Micheal, you wont be single for the rest of your life pursuing your passion, there is some awesome kite surf near Valencia, Spain, Come check it out sometime.


  13. Cool this site just joined today, yea i ve been surfing with the same guys for years and years and everyone knows i am gay but no one has ever said a word to me about it, not a word, one of the guys paddled up to my brother and said, oh, joe, oh we all know about joe, he thinks we dont, but we do, wtf, funny, i just figure its out of respect, we’re all surfers to the core, and my act in the water- i share and compliment, push each other to go bigger, and try to be the person people are glad to see paddling out to join them–

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