Something clicked the first time pro surfer Anastasia Ashley rode a wave. "I truly knew this is what I’m going to be doing the rest of my life," she tells Refinery29. "It gave me a feeling like nothing else in the world." That was back when Ashley was 6. Since then, the 30-year-old has competed around the world and made a name for herself as talented surfer, model, and and all-around badass — one who's very aware of her role model potential.
"I want to be out there and show you can be a strong, fearless, independent athlete and be a woman," Ashley says, adding that when she started surfing competitively, she had very few role models of her own. "Growing up, it wasn’t a cool thing to be a female athlete or a female surfer," she says. Ashley was often discouraged from becoming a pro surfer, but she wasn't going to let anything deter her. "It taught me to be strong and do what I love," she says.
Between riding massive (read: nearly 40 feet) waves and taking home championship titles, Ashley has more than proven herself. But the fact that she's had to prove herself as a woman, specifically, is the problem. "For any female in a male-dominated sport, the challenge is proving that you really are a great surfer and not just 'good for a girl,'" she says.
Luckily, Ashley isn't alone in her wishes to see a change. In 2013, pro surfer Darcy Roland wrote a blog post describing the "glass wave" that all female surfers are chasing: equal pay, equal opportunities to compete, and equal representation in their sport. And the Inspire Initiative, co-founded by female surfers, has been working to promote the visibility of female surfers around the world and end sexism within the industry.
In addition to surfing and modeling, Ashley is also a brand ambassador for aloe water brand Aloe Gloe. She says that brand relationships like this are crucial if female athletes want to close the gender gap in sports.
Whether calling out brands to do more for the women in her industry or encouraging girls to pursue their own athletic aspirations, Ashley is a mission to prove the importance of women in sports. As she put it: "We can be strong."
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