Silvana Lima I Not “Pretty Enough to Sponsor”

Apparently looks are everything. Silvana Lima, the best female surfer in Brazil, said she wasn’t pretty enough to be sponsored by major brands. For the first 13 years of her career, it was impossible for the talented athlete to land a sponsorship deal. It doesn’t really compute that an athlete of that caliber isn’t supported through their industry in a way that allows them to focus and excel at what they do best.

The surf-wear brands when it comes to women, they want both models and surfers, so if you don’t look like a model, you end up without a sponsor, which is what happened to me. I don’t look like a model. I’m not a babe. I’m a surfer. A professional one.

Most surfers rely on sponsorships as their main financial support. So without a sponsor, Lima, 31, was paying all of her own costs, which made it difficult to travel and compete in competitions. In 2014, she started a movement called “Silvana Free,” where she enlisted the help of fans to raise funds for her tour bid. Crazy talk, right?!

The 4’9” athlete was named the best surfer in Brazil eight times. Lima was also the Vice World Champion in 2008 and 2009. She placed 4th in the ASP World Tour in 2010 and 5th in 2011. The surfer has come a long way since she first hit the water. Growing up, her family lived in a shack near the beach. She made her first surfboard out of a plank of wood.

I found a way to make a hole in it and insert a fin, from that moment, my life improved. Surfing ended up changing my life.

Now, important brands have finally decided to back her.

None of this story is news, and none of this is exclusive to surfing. We already knew this about professional surfing and the industry’s sexualization of its top female athletes. Surfing is sexy. We wear bathing suits, get a tan, and spend more time on the beach than the less fortunate landlocked masses. And while that’s a somewhat broad brush to paint over an entire lifestyle, there’s no denying that sex appeal is in the top two or three reasons non surfers look to us with envy. It’s also undoubtedly the easiest way for a surf brand to catch our attention, and in turn, sell their slice of said lifestyle.

Good on ya, Silvana!

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