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Hannah's surfing ambition

Matilda Simmons
Monday, April 17, 2017

BEING a professional woman surfer in Fiji can sometimes be daunting.

Just ask Hannah Bennett.

She is one of a few brave women in Fiji who have been competing against male surfers just to make the cut in trials in order to compete at international events.

This year's trials would get a wild card to represent Fiji at this year's Fiji Pro — a world-class event that takes place at Namotu, Tavarua. The annual event attracts some of the world's top surfers to compete here.

But for local surfer and Bulalicious activewear ambassador Hannah, it's a challenging task.

Because of the lack of women surfers, she has had to compete against her male colleagues every year at the trials for the past five years.

"There has been more and more (surfers) including myself who are trying to pursue this wild card position," the 24-year-old described.

"So the only option I've had for the past three to five years is to compete against the men and so I've been entered into the men's trials, which takes place from the end of April to May this year," she said.

With maternal links to Rotuma, Hannah is one of three siblings.

Their father is from the US. Born in Fiji, Hannah spent her early childhood in Fiji before moving to Hawaii to finish high school.

The move by her parents was so she could develop her surfing skills. She returned to Fiji to compete and represent the country alongside her sisters, Leilani and Kimberly. Hannah represented Fiji in four Melanesian Cups and is the defending champion in the competition.

"I have two elder sisters who have represented Fiji in surfing in the Pacific Games. In the Melanesian Cups, we have all won gold medals for Fiji. For women, there are upcoming surfers between the ages of 10 to 17 years. These female surfers are some of whom we're developing in Fiji," she said.

"There is a difference competing against the men — I mean, I love it, they are my friends, they're my mentors, my heroes, I look up to them. But the difference would be inequality.

"The view or the feeling I have before I take part in the surf events is that there's no chance for me, that I'm the exception, and I am tired of being an exception. I don't think it's fair for girls to constantly be the exception. I know Vanuatu has a surfing association. They have lots of women surfers. If there was a trial in Fiji for the women they would be a part of it. Tahiti has their own trials. They have an event going where their women showcase their skills so why not for Fiji?"

For now, Bennett continues her passion with surfing. She is one of the few brave women in Fiji who have taken up the sport despite its lack of recognition compared with rugby and netball. But she is unfazed about it.

"I'm going to keep pursuing this career in surfing now that it has been inducted into the 2020 Olympics. My goal is to push for that and hopefully win a seat for Fiji and represent the women's side. Career wise, I want to start developing surf clinics and surf coaching in Fiji and hopefully see a growth in this sport especially among women," she said.








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