The founders of Betty Zine on authentic representation of female narratives in surfing and their aim to break surfing’s patriarchy.
Back in February, I attended an exhibition hosted by Betty Zine in Raglan (a little surf town in New Zealand). I found myself mesmerised by all stunning surf-inspired photography and artwork and had the chance to converse with the founders of Betty.
Betty Zine, also just known as “Betty” is an inclusive platform and grassroots publication that aims to empower female surfers to come together in their creative pursuits.
Betty is run by three ladies: Zofia Seymour, who spearheaded the project and is the chief curator and designer, Rachel Lewis the editor and Stephanie Brookes, who takes care of social media.
After attending the exhibition and getting to know the Zine as an avid reader, I was inspired by the boldness of the trio and wanted to learn more about their background and their approach to creating a female-focused surf magazine – with all the hurdles and rewards that are involved.
— Katrina Lane
1. What change does Betty Zine want to facilitate and why is it important?
We want a more authentic representation of female narratives in the conversation around surfing. Not just in a competitive context, but also about our participation in the culture and lifestyle associated with it.
Betty wants women to shape the industry and culture around surfing, rather than for women to feel they need to conform to an image or persona created for them. We are a community of women who engage with the ocean in different ways and are both empowered and empowering.
2. Where did the idea come from and what inspired you to materialise it?
The concept emerged from lockdown and the desire to respond positively to the situation. Surfing was banned and our need for a creative outlet sparked the idea for Betty Zine. It was a way to connect a community in an uncertain time.
The outcome was a grassroots zine with content that came entirely from the community. We never sat down and said “We want to start a women’s surf magazine”. Instead, we just went with the flow and the outpouring of submissions and support has meant that issues keep getting published. We are currently five issues in and getting more submissions than ever.
3. What were your backgrounds prior to this, and how have they come together to shape what you do at Betty?
Steph is a mother, scientist and surfer. She started surfing at age 15 and taught herself in a time when there were few other women in the water. She has long been involved in getting more women surfing through her role in the Ultimate Surf Betty’s Facebook group and the BFM surf reports.
Rachel is a freelance writer, teacher and native Minnesotan. Her love affair with surfing started when she moved and settled in Aotearoa eight years ago. Through surfing, she has found a sense of community and friendship that she had never had before.
Zofia is a self-proclaimed design nerd. She’s adventurous and loves being outdoors, especially in the ocean. Surfing has made her chase a lifestyle more suited to this adventurous spirit and now she’s focussing her attention on more meaningful, freelance work.
Serendipity led us to connect on this project. Our backgrounds and skills complement each other to create a close-knit team willing to challenge and support each other in achieving our goals and aspirations, for both Betty and ourselves as individuals.
4. Could you tell us more about what is wrong with the current narrative surrounding surf culture and how Betty aims to help change this?
Women haven’t been able to participate in surf culture the same way men have. In the past, women have been marginalised and hyper-sexualised in competitions and in the media. Thankfully, this is changing now as women are being awarded equal pay and there is more representation of women in surf media and culture.
Also, many women have a unique perspective of surfing that differs from the mainstream narrative and Betty wants to make space for these perspectives to be shared.
5. What has been the most difficult part of creating the zine?
We’ve been voluntarily working on Betty as a passion project, entirely unpaid. The zine has grown quickly and it is a challenge to balance our work for the zine with earning an income, family life and surfing. Because the zine isn’t specifically an arts magazine or a sporting magazine, we haven’t been able to get financial support from creative or athletic foundations.
We do have a lot of grassroots, product and content support from businesses, which has been amazing, but no financial contributions as of yet.
6. How has being on the road and doing events across the country affected the process of creating an organisation and how has it shaped the way you work?
We work in laundromats with wifi at 11 pm! Learning to work flexibly and remotely is a skill in itself and one that takes practice. Because we have to manage our time between non-Betty commitments, we have to make decisions fast. It’s been great seeing all of us develop our individual strengths.
7. What inspired your latest issue “Gratitude”?
We made it one year! When we started we had no idea Betty would be more than a little lockdown art project. Seeing people’s appreciation for being accurately represented and the sense of joy that comes with that is powerful. We keep getting comments like ‘where has all this amazing creativity been all this time?”. It was always here, we’ve just made a space for it.
8. Looking forward, what do you aspire Betty Zine to be doing in a few years time?
Over the past year, Betty has grown from a zine to a brand that plans to host events, retreats, workshops to support and grow our community. We have many ideas to diversify and build a brand around our values. All of them involve empowering and bringing people together.
9. What is one book or film that has inspired you and that you recommend?
For Steph, the film “Girls Can’t Surf” re-inspired her as it points out that we are still fighting the fight for equality.
10. Do you have any other thoughts or wise words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
- Work on something that really matters. Don’t tell people what they should be, let them tell you who they are.
- Working on something grassroots is humbling in its authenticity.
- Network and meet people face-to-face. Don’t underestimate the value of spontaneous or personal interactions. Many of our opportunities have come about through chance encounters and mutual connections manifesting.
- Be genuine and honest. Don’t sell yourself as something you’re not. Let the work speak for itself.
- Be prepared to work really hard and make sure it’s for something you love doing.
9th July 2021