GaySurfers.net: Navigating global change in homophobic waters

November 23, 2010 in Articles by thomasadmin

Social networking site to bring gay surfers together and maybe even change the tide in their favor

MORGAN M. HURLEY – SDGLN COPY EDITOR

November 22nd, 2010

AUSTRALIA — Thomas C. has been a surfer for most of his life and has traveled the world with his surfboard, but always found it difficult to meet other gay surfers. What he did find, more often than not, were like-minded surfers who generally always hid their sexuality.

He knew there were plenty of other gay surfers in the world that didn’t merely fit the standard “macho” stereotype of the global surfing community. He also knew there was a need to share surf tales outside of the traditional online gay “hook-up” sites.

Indeed, what was needed was a place where “swells,” “getting worked,” “macking,” “backdoors,” “bottoms,” and “pull outs” were not about sexual encounters; where tackling “kegs” or getting “ripped,” “hammered,” or even “iced” explained various levels of finesse, but not while drinking.

Thomas kept up his search for the community he envisioned and knew was needed, but always came up empty-handed.

“There are things we want to share with other gay surfers beyond dating, common interests, etc. I kept hoping someone out there would build this community, but it never happened; so I decided to do it myself.”

Build it and they will come

What Thomas did was create a non-profit online website community, called Gaysurfers.net, where gay surfers could share their passion for surfing with others in their local town and around the world.

The website, launched in February 2010, gives gay surfers from every point on the planet a place to meet, create surf groups based on geographic location, plan meet-ups, share their experiences and favorite surfing spots, etc. In just eight months, Gaysurfers.net has well over 2,400 members from almost 80 countries, including France, Indonesia, Scotland and even Bangladesh.

The site is designed for men and women, but right now the guys are outnumbering the gals. All ages also seem to be jumping on board, with profiles identifying surfers in their teens to those listed merely as “experienced.” Thomas is thrilled that younger surfers are finding and using the site.

Members can remain as anonymous as they wish and one of the first things you notice is that you cannot access anything on the site unless you create a login and password. This will most certainly keep away the gawkers, and also make members feel even more comfortable entering the fold.

In addition to those features, members will also find articles, information on gay friendly surf spots around the world, a selection of surf-related films, as well as typical social networking community tools such as groups, forums and a member search. New functionality is added on a regular basis.

Although membership is free, Thomas would be remiss if he didn’t offer the opportunity for members to make donations to help him cover the costs of keeping up the site. Those who wish to donate can easily do so with the click of a mouse.

“I’m not a company trying to sell anything,” Thomas said. “I’m just a gay surfer who enjoys meeting people and introducing them to each other. I thought it would be fun to do this for others [like me] on the web, and do it for free.”

When asked about the mission of the site, Thomas laid out two very specific main objectives; To bring gay surfers together and to help change public awareness. In a very short amount of time, however, it has become much more to many.

He emphasizes at every turn that this is not a dating site, nor is it a porn site; it is strictly a social community based on a passion for surfing. Those hoping to slide a questionable photo in under the radar better find another website, because Thomas monitors this one closely. He is serious when he says he wants Gaysurfers.net to remain “a safe place for all ages.”

A surfing community without the haters

The main goal of the site is to offer a place where gay surfers can meet other gay surfers across continents, travel to new locations, swim out together, help each other, share information and socialize. As with anything else, there is always safety in numbers.

When Thomas first started Gaysurfers.net, he knew there had to be others longing for a similar community, “who share the same passion for surfing and also happen to be gay,” but the rapid growth of the site still surprised him.

The website immediately became a cooperative community — a place where everything is shared and constantly evolving. The site depends upon its community members to keep it interesting and up-to-date by posting articles, uploading videos, and offering reviews of gay-friendly surfing locations around the world (the list grows every day, and currently includes such unexpected locations as France, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and even Morocco).

Thomas even recently reached out to the membership for help designing a logo for a new T-shirt, the sales of which will also help pay for the maintenance of the site. There were many entries and the eventual winner was chosen by — who else? The membership.

His decision to build this community clearly struck a chord. Members regularly share with him their similar longtime search for a community of kindred spirits and many have also shared they thought they were “the only gay surfers in the world … until they found the site.”

Despite being known for its “laid back and easy-going attitude” (especially on things related to sex), the surfing community at large has long been known to completely ignore its gay sector, and surprisingly, still reigns as one of the most homophobic sports around.

Afterall, there haven’t been a lot of openly gay role models on the surfing circuit; in fact, there have only been two openly gay surfers – Matt Branson and Robbins Thompson. Thompson, a native San Diegan, has since given up the sport due to the backlash he experienced after he appeared on national television discussing his friendship with gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan.

With Gaysurfers.net, Thomas hopes to help navigate and maybe eventually even regulate these homophobic waters, one wave at a time. In a recent self-penned article he posted on the site, Thomas had an inspiring message to share with his bretheren. Here is an excerpt:

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.

As Gaysurfers.net 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.

San Diego and Hawaii Gaysurfer.net meet up

This Wednesday, Nov. 24, Thomas will be in San Diego meeting up with fellow Gaysurfer.net members and hopes you will join them.

There will be a Surf Session at 3:30 p.m. at Swami’s (meet at the car park next to the stairs).

After the session, everyone is asked to meet at The Hole, beginning at 8 p.m. Create an account and register for the San Diego surf session HERE.

The following week, Thomas is headed to Honolulu for another meet-up.

No surf session is currently scheduled in Hawaii, but the plan is to meet for drinks at 8 p.m. at Hula’s Bar and Lei Stand. Hula’s is in Waikiki, just steps from Queen’s Beach (the gay beach). It is on the second floor of the Waikiki Grand Hotel, 134 Kapahulu Ave., facing Kapiolani Park.

If you plan to meet up with Thomas at either of these gatherings, send him an e-mail at info@gaysurfers.net.

To read more about Thomas C. and Gaysurfers.net

This past June, Australia’s leading print publication for gay men, DNA magazine published a very in-depth article worth sharing HERE.

Watch for a related story on Richard Tong, part-time resident of Carlsbad who is one of many surfers profiled in the article above, here on SDGLN.

Morgan M. Hurley is the Copy Editor for SDGLN. She can be reached at (877) 727-5446, x710, or via e-mail at morgan@sdgln.com.