Roxy has found itself in hot water as controversy grows around an ad featuring a scantily-clad female pro-surfer that many have labeled sexist.
The spot, ostensibly promoting the Roxy-sponsored Pro Biarritz surfing competition, depicts a woman waking up in bed, stripping down for a shower, heading to the beach – where she changes into a swimsuit and cleans her surfboard provocatively in slow motion – and then finally paddling out into the ocean, does not show the actress’ face – or any actual surfing for that matter – once, but contains copious shots of her cleavage, legs, and rear.
As viewers took to social media in outrage, Roxy stood by its ad, claiming that the purpose of never showing the woman’s face was to allow fans to guess her identity. The star of the ad was later revealed to be professional surfer Stephanie Gilmore. With backlash mounting, Roxy posted a statement on its Facebook page, saying “We believe all athletes are naturally beautiful, in and out of the water. You certainly don’t have to be sexy to be an athlete, & we also believe it’s not wrong to be an athlete and to be sexy, if you choose to be.”
Tia Calvo at the Guardian summed up the opposition to the ad among female surfers, saying “Skills wise, women’s surfing has been reaching new heights in recent years… And yet here we are, gently tiptoeing around one of the oldest issue in women’s pro surfing: do athletes have to be sexualised to attract and keep your sponsors?”
Whether the ad has consequences for Roxy’s sales – some shoppers have threatened to boycott the company – remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: if the point of advertisement is to garner attention, then this ad is working.