1968 World Champion Says "The Women Should Compete Against The Men"
Fred Hemmings says you can't be "equal but separate".
A few months ago, the World Surf League made a revolutionary and commendable step towards closing the gender pay-gap.
The WSL announced that from 2019 onwards they would award equal pay to both men and women in all competitions they ran; in doing so, becoming the first American sporting association to grant equal pay, and consequently made headlines around the globe – which spread much further than our shallow surfing community.
Their reasons for doing so are relatively simple, lying upon the logical foundation that people deserve equal pay for equal work, regardless of their gender.
In the WSL's interpretation, this meant that a woman who came first, second, or dead last should receive the same prize money her male counterpart does for the same placing.
Since the announcement, a few dissenters have come forward pointing out minor issues with the WSL's decision. Most notably that there are double the male competitors, meaning that the women's prize pool per surfer is now larger. Ironically, this prize pool argument was the one initially proposed by the WSL when queried about the pay gap back at the Ballito Pro Junior.
Fred Hemmings however believes that the issue extends beyond prize pool and competitor calculations. Instead, arguing that the WSL's 2019 plan will not be rewarding 'equal pay for equal work' at all.
The 1968 World Champion, founder of the Smirnoff World Pro-Am, the first comp at Pipe, and Surfing Hall Of Fame Inductee believes that the men, of all the genders, are being hard done by in the current plan. In a recent interview with Hawaii Public Radio, Fred outlined his concerns and argued that the men and women should compete on an even playing field.
Not just the same waves, but head-to-head against one another in competition.
"What many of the men are saying now is that the women aren't doing equal work, in other words the men have to compete in 15-foot Pipeline...and there's only a handful of women that would do that," Fred told Hawaiian Public Radio, "Women [will be] getting equal pay, but they're separate.
"I think the next logical step in order to avoid this disparity is for women to compete directly against men and get rid of the gender bias in surfing contests. In other words the best women surf against the best men, they put all the money in one pot and divide it up based on placings and performance. That would truly be equal work for equal pay.
"I think many of the women could step up to the plate and be competitive against the men. Surfing should lead the way."
Fred was then told by the presenter that a woman was right next to Kai Lenny during a recent hydrofoil paddleboard race, to which Fred responded, "that's exactly right...it's up to women to step up the the plate and start competing against men. [Plus] It would be double the prize money if you didn't split it between men and women, the money would then be divided a lot more generously to the top performers within the sport."
While Hemming's intentions appear genuine and non-inflammatory, he then went on to compare the WSL's proposal to the inequality between whites and african-americans in the early 1900's.
"What was happening in the south especially is you had segregation – it was 'separate but equal'. The racial discriminators were saying that [african-american's had] equal rights – they can drink water, they can get a job and go to this restaurant – but they have to sit separately; they can get the bus, but they have to sit at the back, or they have to drink from the colours only water fountain." Fred continued. "That's the doctrine of separate but equal.
"You can't be separate and equal. You can give out equal prize money but you're not having equal competition.
"My favourite professional surfer is a woman [Steph Gilmore], she has the physique and the ability to ride 25-foot waves, she has the physique and ability to ride Pipeline at 12-15 feet and killer waves, both of which John John Florence does, but she doesn't. At that level of competition surfing it's your skill and mental abilities not your physical abilities as far as size and strength goes.
"This thing that women and aren't as strong and big as men that's not the relevant point in competitive surfing. Many of the top women's surfers are as big or bigger than their male counterparts."
So, what do you think?
Should we throw decades of biology aside and peg the guys and gals against one another Chopes next year? Should we come to the realisation systemic racism and gendered sports aren't quite the same thing? Or should we just stop calling competitive surfing a sport altogether and realise it's only us that give a fuck.
If we are to amalgamate the sexes though, let's just hope Tatiana and Jesse's love isn't tainted when she smokes him with some backhand sass.
Lettuce know you're thoughts below.
Has Fred Hemmings the former Republican senator taken it a step too far? Or is he just a voice of reason emerging from the haze of modern day social justice?