World Surf League Equal pay men women

After Debacle, World Surf League Awards Women Equal Prize Money

Today, the World Surf League announced that male and female surfers will receive equal prize money.

The official statement by the World Surf League (WSL) comes on the tail of an embarrassing debacle earlier this year. It got surf fans and members of the media talking about the absurdity of gender-based unequal payouts.

World Surf League Equal Pay
Stephanie Gilmore competes in the Roxy Pro in 2010; Flickr photo by surfglassy Above: Gilmore with her sixth world title; photo by Kirstin Scholtz – ASP

A viral photo showed the male and female winners of the 2018 Ballito Pro Junior Series holding oversized checks. The female winner’s amount was half that of the male winner’s. He got $8,000; she got $4,000.

The equal pay action will start at every WSL-sanctioned event in the 2019 season and going forward, according to a press release. The step makes the league “the first and only U.S.-based global sports league, and among the first internationally, to achieve prize money equality,” according to a press release.

Pro Female and Male Surfers React

Stephanie Gilmore, a six-time world champion surfer, wrote in a Player’s Tribune op-ed that today she is proud to be a surfer, a female surfer.

“I feel like the momentum in our society to have this conversation is incredible — because it’s not just in surfing, or in sport, that women are fighting for equality in the workplace. It’s everywhere. And for this announcement to come now, and for it to happen during my career — and then to have the support of so many male surfers, including Kelly Slater — is unbelievable.”

Slater echoed her thoughts in the joint story, referencing all the female surfers killing it in the quickly evolving sport.

“To watch what these women do … I mean, what they are able to do out there is every bit as difficult and as dangerous and as impressive as what any man on the tour does,” he wrote. “And starting now, they’re going to receive equal prize money for it.”

ISA Rebounds on Its Own Equality Standards

In an additional twist, the International Surfing Association is taking a similar step forward in gender equality after getting called out. Dani Burt, 2017 Stance ISA World Adaptive Surfing champion, blasted the organization. Recently, it decided to weight women’s scores at 50 percent of the men’s scores as a win. (Women didn’t even count in the team competition in years past.)

She wrote a letter to the ISA, reported by Surfer Magazine. “The announcement of 50 [percentage] points is not progress, it’s a reminder that in the eyes of the association and the world, women are considered less than,” she wrote.

In response, the ISA rescinded its decision. It will weigh men’s and women’s scores equally in the team competition for the 2019 ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships.

It appears the momentum is finally swinging in female surfers’ favor. In fact, the WSL is taking its equal pay action a step further. Next year, the league will launch its own pro-athlete-driven instructional surfing clinics at all stops on the women’s circuit.

Julie Kailus

Associate editor Julie Kailus has spent a career covering people, places, and products in the outdoor industry. Julie can be found testing the latest and greatest in her favorite activities — trail running, mountain biking, swimming, snowboarding, and the underrated endurance sport of chasing two sons around the mountains.