Women’s and Men’s Prize Money Made Equal

by Kyveli Diener

The World Surf League earned a place in sports history today as well as the adulation of fans and athletes with the announcement Wednesday that the prize money for men’s and women’s championships will be equal for the first time in professional surfing history at all events hosted by the league beginning with the 2019 season. In their announcement, WSL said that this commitment makes them “the first and only US based global sports league, and among the first internationally, to achieve prize money equality.”

“This change is simply the right thing to do for the WSL and we would like to thank the many advocates who have worked for decades to help advance women’s surfing,” said WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt. “We want to be at the forefront of pushing for equality in all walks of life, starting on the waves, and we feel very lucky to have women on our tour who are highly talented, iconic role models, and more than deserve this recognition as they stand alongside our extraordinary male athletes.”

Further supporting the advancement of women’s surfing, the WSL announced a series of additional commitments in conjunction with the pay equity, including a global marketing campaign to highlight the women’s tour as well as increase event viewership and fan engagement; local community engagement program for girls around the world, featuring instructional clinics with WSL athletes at each women’s Championship Tour stop to inspire the next generation to embrace surfing; and a monthly content series about the pioneering women of surfing, celebrating them across WSL channels, starting next week with seven-time World Champion Layne Beachley.

“This is incredible, and I am thrilled. 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,” said six-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore. “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.”

The announcement and subsequently released #CatchThisWave campaign imagery was praised and shared by female and male surfers of all ages from around the world, including current elite competitors like Owen Wright who said, “Tyler and I now get equal prize money – time for more sports to #catchthiswave and make the change.” The move was praised by another group who has seen leaps and bounds in equality recently, female big wave chargers, with thrilled posts going up from Paige Alms, Felicity Palmateer and Keala Kennelly, who said “I have fought for this my entire career and didn’t know if I would see it in my lifetime. Bravo WSL.”

While obligatory internet trolls (incorrectly) argued that women physically can’t outsurf men and therefore don’t deserve equal pay, some of the biggest men in the actual industry of surfing — including but not limited to the GOAT, Kelly Slater — spoke out with great unending support for the decision that recognizes that human is human and a hard-fought contest victory isn’t any less special or worthy simply based on the victor’s gender.

“The women on the tour deserve this change,” the 11-time world champ said. “I’m so proud that surfing is choosing to lead sports in equality and fairness. The female WSL athletes are equally committed to their craft as the male athletes and should be paid the same. Surfing has always been a pioneering sport, and this serves as an example of that.”

The announcement was tied into the revealing of the 2019 Championship Tour schedule, which also experienced some change. Most notably, the three-pronged Australian leg of the tour will be broken up, with a Bali contest added in between the Bells Beach and Margaret River events. The whole tour is also set to begin a month later than usual, and the women’s tour stops have been realigned to mirror the men’s. View both full schedules below:

 

2019 Men’s Championship Tour Schedule*:

Gold Coast Men’s Pro: April 3 – 13, 2019

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: April 17 – 27, 2019

Bali Men’s Pro: May 13 – 24, 2019

Margaret River Pro: May 27 – June 7, 2019

Oi Rio Pro: June 20 – 28, 2019

J-Bay Open: July 9 – 22, 2019

Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o: August 21 – September 1, 2019

Surf Ranch Pro: September 19 – 22, 2019

France Men’s Pro: October 3 – 13, 2019

Meo Pro Peniche: October 16 – 28, 2019

Billabong Pipe Masters: December 8 – 20, 2019

 

2019 Women’s Championship Tour Schedule*:

Gold Coast Women’s Pro: April 3 – 13, 2019

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: April 17 – 27, 2019

Bali Women’s Pro: May 13 – 24, 2019

Margaret River Pro: May 27 – June 7, 2019

Oi Rio Pro: June 20 – 28, 2019

J-Bay Open: July 9 – 22, 2019

Surf Ranch Pro: September 19 – 22, 2019

France Women’s Pro: October 3 – 13, 2019

Meo Pro Peniche: October 16 – 28, 2019

Hawaii Women’s Pro: November 25 – December 7, 2019

 

* All events subject to change.

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