Racy surf ad sparks controversy

A butt appears out of focus. Whose? It belongs to a woman, a tanned blonde who obviously works out. We soon learn she also takes sexy showers and plays a Fender Stratocaster, uses an HTC phone, surfs and even drives barefoot, which is frowned upon in some local jurisdictions.

This is the identity of Stephanie Gilmore, world champion surfer, as communicated by the Roxy brand sports apparel company, whose products are aimed at women.

We don’t see Gilmore’s face in the ad — according to Roxy the idea was to have the audience trying to solve a mystery (thus the guitar, which Gilmore does play as a hobby) — but the rest of her body is slowly explored in soft-lit HD, and that has some people feeling peeved that this same old racket is happening to another female athlete.

In The Guardian, Tia Calvo wrote: "This little voyeuristic semi soft-core porn clip is representing a professional sport which has been fighting a long and ongoing battle for gender equality."

Fair warning: That column also includes the phrase, “saucily exhibiting Kelly Slater’s package."

This is all a chorus that has gotten louder and louder around the turn of the century once a young Anna Kournikova became famous enough to make glamour magazine covers and appear in an Enrique Iglesias video because she was beautiful, and not because she was a great tennis player. That is, of course, in relation to other professional tennis players. In relation to models, she was the best tennis player in the world.

From Kournikova to Serena Williams to Lindsey Vonn to Lolo Jones, attractive female athletes tend to get judged from both sides — the men who objectify their bodies and the women who criticize them for using that objectification to their advantage.

It can’t be a comfortable place to be, and Gilmore is the latest to go there.

Facebook commenters saw the ad as “stupid” and “sexist” and threatened to boycott.

Roxy responded to critics by saying it didn’t see anything wrong with being an athlete and being sexy, although being sexy is certainly no requirement for being an athlete.

So that’s where the issue stands, once again.

And oh yeah: That’s an ad for the 2013 Roxy Pro Biarritz surfing meet.