interview & words by Elisa Routa
Our legs in wetsuits offend you. Our bodies in bikinis offend you. Our skin offends you. Our curves offend you. Our bones offend you. Our hair offends you. The way we paddle out upsets you. The way we take waves upsets you. Our feet on a board upset you. Our maneuvers upset you. The way we walk, swim, shoot, talk, surf, and live upsets you. The way we occupy space upsets you. And still we rise.*
Agathe Marcé, 31, belongs to the last generation of people born in the coastal town of Biarritz. “I received surfing as a legacy from my father, he gave me the bug,” she says. “I love to be in the water, I go check the ocean every morning, but I also love surfing for its images, the magazines, the posters, and its related objects. Since I was a kid, I’ve always dreamt surfing.” Agathe remembers she used to collect surfwear brands stickers from the 90s. She would draw their logos again and again. “These logos helped me build mental imagery. The surfing business marketing strategy worked pretty well on me. Today, I re-use those graphic codes but in the Big Mama version.”
“The Big Mamas are at the very opposite of myself. These women visually occupy the space, whereas I’d sometimes like to be invisible.”
Represented in flashy colors, dark skins, extra-large bodies, and overflowing boobs, these women overthrow the overt hypersexualization of female surfers we’ve witnessed both in the surfing industry, in the world of sports, and in advertising over the past few decades. “First, I just wanted to draw fat women in the water but I eventually perceived their message and understood the link between me and these Big Mama. The Big Mamas are at the very opposite of myself. These women visually occupy the space, whereas I’d sometimes like to be invisible” she explains about these women who unequivocally go against the cliché of a fantasy female surfer. “I usually draw very tiny heads so that these Big Mama can be everyone. I now get the importance of diverse representation and visibility, it can help people and especially young girls to feel seen.”
The Big Mama build confidence and explore women’s empowerment. They unapologetically declare: Look at our body, look at it closely, and don’t look away. We are alive, we are visible, we are beautiful and we are here to stay. Despite your anger, despite your judgment, still, like dust, we’ll rise.
Agathe Marcé takes part in the collective exhibition Rayon Vert Experience taking place in Biarritz, France, this month, and featuring artists like Pandora Decoster, Franck Cazenave, Maia Ibar, Mathias Dulau, and Benjamin Artola. We’re delighted to announce that Agathe and Pandora will also be part of our upcoming book project among other inspiring and powerful artists, environmentalists, activists, surfers, craftsmen, writers, thinkers, and active women turning the tide and making a change in the beach culture.
*In reference to the poem written by African-American poet Maya Angelou, “Still I rise”.