Earlier today the WSL announced that male and female surfers will receive equal prize money at each and every WSL-sanctioned event from the beginning of the 2019 season going forward. The decision, according to the WSL, makes the league “the first and only US-based global sports league, and among the first internationally, to achieve prize money equality”–which is pretty nuts.
A couple months ago, an image of the 2018 Ballito Pro Junior’s men's and women's event winners holding oversized checks (wherein the young girl who won was holding a check for half the amount of the men’s winner) went viral, with many media outlets, fans and critics questioning the WSL’s prize purse policies. Today’s announcement comes as a big win for those fighting to close the gender pay gap.
To coincide with giving the women the financial backing they deserve, the WSL is also planning to show their support in other ways. Next year they’ll be launching a local community engagement program for girls around the world, which will feature instructional clinics with WSL athletes at every women’s CT our stop. Also pretty damn cool.
“This is incredible, and I am thrilled,” 6x-World Champ Steph Gilmore said in the press release. “The prize money is fantastic, but the message means even more. From the moment current ownership became involved, the situation for the women surfers has been transformed for the better in every way. We have been so appreciative, but this takes it to another level. I hope this serves as a model for other sports, global organizations and society as a whole. My fellow women athletes and I are honored by the confidence in us, and inspired to reward this decision with ever higher levels of surfing.” [To read more of Gilmore’s response to the decision, click here.]
In other gender equality news, the ISA has also taken a step towards gender equality in surf competition. Just a couple weeks ago, the ISA announced that, for the 2018 ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships, the women’s scores would be weighted at 50 percent of the men's scores in the team competition. 50 percent was an upgrade from the year prior, as women’s scores weren’t counted at all towards the team totals, but the new announcement parked major backlash from many in the adaptive surfing community.
Dani Burt, the 2017 Stance ISA World Adaptive Surfing Champion, a doctor of physical therapy and an above-the-knee amputee drafted a letter to the ISA in protest of their recent decision. According to Burt, the decision would be “taking an already marginalized group of people and further marginalizing them by inserting gender discrimination into this amazing sport. This regulation took away women’s dignity as competitors. The announcement of 50% points is not progress, it's a reminder that in the eyes of the association and the world, women are considered less than.”
But just a few hours ago, Burt received word that the ISA has decided to rescind their decision and weigh men’s and women’s scores equally in team competition.