Ellie-Jean Coffey might still be a teenager, but she is old enough to know that sex sells — especially when it comes to women’s surfing.
The confident 19-year-old surfer from Rainbow Bay has become a social media hit, boasting 231,000 followers just on Instagram, and she admits that the pictures she regularly posts of herself showing off the latest Billabong bikinis are part of the reason.
“Being sexy and being competitive go together,” she said. “My approach on social media has helped me to build a profile and attract sponsorship. Sponsors want the whole package.”
Coffey also argues that the approach she and other female surfers, including sister Holly-Sue, have taken with social media has given women’s surfing an edge in recent years — growing the female fan base almost to the same level as that of the men.
“We have the upper hand because guys don’t want to post selfies,” she said.
Former world surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore attracted attention last year when she starred in an ad for sponsor Roxy whilst being naked from the waste up and only wearing bikini bottoms.
Coffey said Gilmore was proof that you could be successful and have sex appeal. “She is the best and she has gone down that sexy path,” she said.
But Coffey says that female surfers needed to promote themselves with quality and class — something that she claimed to do.
ASP commissioner Kieren Perrow said he hoped the days of women being known for what they were wearing instead of their performance were in the past.
“It’s awesome to see how well the women are surfing and when the focus is on them going out and competing and doing what they do, it takes away from (talk about) them going out and surfing in bikinis,” he said.
“It’s not (about that). They all want to eat each other alive out there. They’re hungry to win and that’s cool.” Perrow said last week’s effort by the female competitors had sent a clear message about where the sport of women’s surfing was at.
“They’ve really stepped up, their surfing was unbelievable, (Tuesday was) probably one of the best days in women’s surfing history, I think,” he said. “And the viewer numbers that have come through are proving that everyone is really enjoying seeing them surf.”
Brand expert Dr Stephen Holden, from Bond University’s business faculty, had a different view, however.
“If you have got it, flaunt it,” he said.
“Everyone knows that professional sports people make most of their money through sponsorships. And even if sex does not sell, that is what the sponsors believe. So playing that up makes you a more saleable product.”