Doco on gay surfers jumpstarts the discussion

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 21 March, 2014 – If you thought rugby league player Ian Roberts was gutsy when he came out as gay spare a thought for anyone in the surfing world who wants to follow in his footsteps. A new a film about gay surfers is starting a conversation about being a minority within one of the most homophobic sports in Australia and around the world.
“Out in the Line Up” has just won the Audience Award for best documentary at the Mardi Gras Film Festival and Best Surf Film at the Byron Bay International Film Festival. Director Ian Thomas says the film follows two gay surfers on their journey around the world to hear the stories of other gay surfers.

They represent an emerging community who have been compelled to secrecy until now and attempt to create a more open and accepting surfing culture. “We talked to a lot of people that felt stranded between gay culture and surf culture – not feeling there was any space to express who they are,” Ian said. “There’s often not that space to discuss your sexuality in the surf.”

The film also stars professional surfers who felt there was pressure on them from their sponsors to hide their sexuality. Ian says Matt Branson was a prominent professional surfer during the 1980s and 1990s and is profiled in the film.

“He had his coming out about 15 years after he left the tour,” Ian said.”He was considered to be the man’s man of surfing, a punk rocker full of tattoos – a pretty tough guy. “But that secret not only had the power to destroy him and his career but also the two companies that were sponsoring him. And I think that’s why it took him 15 years to come out.”

Ian says he doubts the surfing industry has changed much since Matt Branson retired. “We still haven’t seen an openly gay professional surfer on the men’s tour.”