Mathilde Monbrison: a strong and brave Polynesian woman at the Reef Vahine Cup
Dans ce mois des droits de la femme, et à l’occasion de la Reef Vahine Cup qui devait se tenir du 26 au 29 mars 1, Julie Vigouroux, professeure d’anglais au Collège de Hitia’a O Te Ra, et sa classe de 3è ont interviewé Mathilde Monbrison, une des jeunes surfeuses participant à cette compétition. Chez Femmes de Polynésie nous sommes fiers de ces rédacteurs en herbe, et vous présentons leur projet pédagogique, rédigé intégralement en anglais.
The “vahine myth” as a half-naked Polynesian woman on the beach, as well as the image of women in international ads, have evolved during the last decade, giving way to independent, confident and successful women, in the search for new sporty adventures, like we see in the Roxy campaigns. Let’s remain in the surfing universe with the Reef Vahine Cup, that will take place from 26th till 29th of March in Papara. The aim of this event, created by Doumé Guerin and Nuno Camelo in 2017, is to put those women on the upfront. For Femmes de Polynésie, we gave the floor to one of its promising participants: Mathilde Monbrison.
Her accession in the surfing world
Mathilde is an 18-year-old young woman, born in France where she learnt how to swim. When she arrived in Tahiti, she followed her path and started surfing.
“My father brought me to the waves the first time and never stopped supporting me since
She then took surfing lessons and entered her first competition, trained by her coach Steven Pierson and his Tahiti Nui Surf School. When questioned about whether she would like to become a professional female surfer, Mathilde joyfully answered: “Of course I would love to! Seriously, which sportsman/woman wouldn’t want to turn their passion into their job?”
Her main obstacle?
“My fear. When waves are big, when the stream is strong, when there is a lot of people in
the water… I’m not very comfortable because I’m always afraid that I would hurt myself or
Her piece of advice is gold: to overcome our fears, the best medicine is to practice in every possible condition. She is currently at the high school of Papara and she chose to enroll in the surfing section at her school, directed by Olivier Napias and Hira Teriinatoofa: “Next year, I plan to do STAPS and I hope to be accepted here, in Tahiti.”
But surfing is a difficult sport and mostly expensive, due to equipment: “It has become a luxurious sport!” Trying to find sponsors eventually led her to participate to competitions around the globe: in Portugal in 2016, in California in 2018, and on beaches in French Polynesia. For her, competitions offered her the chance to “meet a lot of different nationalities, different cultures and ways of thinking that all converge to the same point: their love for surfing”.
The reality behind being a female surfer
When asked about the International Women’s Day, Mathilde confessed to us that it seemed like a good idea but regrets it only happens once a year. If it were her, she’d have created what she would call a Human Day, because “the aim shouldn’t be about putting men down and women upfront, but to promote a true equality”. She considered the fact that if that day still exists it is because “there is still a long way to go”.
Mathilde had never heard any disturbing remarks from male surfers, who are usually kind to the women who try to catch a wave. The inequality is more visible in the prizes money, usually higher for men. But this year, for the Papara Pro Cup, prizes money will be the same for all!
“The inequality is also very flagrant in sponsoring. It’s sad to see that very good female
surfers cannot make it to the top because they don’t have the support of brands, because
they don’t reach their beauty standards.”
According to Mathilde, it is easier for men because “all they have to do is to be good surfers and rather active on social media, whereas girls are expected to also have a good body”.
The importance of having a surfing event for women only
“Reef Vahine cup is a good idea to promote Polynesian female surfing, because some of
them finally feel comfortable enough to participate.”
Moreover, Mathilde added that men come to encourage and give advice to the female surfers. Eventually, it allows people to just be together and enjoy surfing.
She foresees her career as “coach, photograph, judge, competitor or free surfer”.
“I would like to surf my whole life and share this passion with my three little brothers, my
friends and my children if I ever have some!”
She also feels involved in ecological issues that are dear to her heart, since she spends most of her time in water.
In her field, Mathilde is the true embodiment of what Polynesian women are today: independent, brave, powerful, full of goals for themselves but also for our land.