Stab Magazine | What Surfing Organization Has Become The First Global Sports League To Embrace Gender Pay Equality?

What Surfing Organization Has Become The First Global Sports League To Embrace Gender Pay Equality?

After the long fight, one organization caves and celebrates! 

news // Sep 6, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Today, September 5th, 2018 will be briefly remembered as the day the World Surf League dropped a bomb on pre-existing athletic norms.

First, we were sent a presser by the Wild World of Surf’s PR machine releasing the 2019 CT schedule: same same, but different. 

Then, THE bombshell: Gender Pay Equality!

The WSL has played tough when it comes to paying men and women an equal amount of money to ride their surfboards in competition, but there has been a breakthrough. 

“The World Surf League today announced that it will award equal prize money to male and female athletes for every WSL-controlled event in the 2019 season and beyond, becoming the first and only US based global sports league, and among the first internationally, to achieve prize money equality. The WSL is proud of its commitment to gender equality, and proud to join other organizations beyond the world of sport reaching this important milestone,” gleams the Press Release.

The original arguments against: The men draw more eyeballs than the women; the roster for men outnumbers the women by a dozen surfers; the WSL audience and surfing is more male driven; and, therefore, the demand for women’s competition sits on a different level than the men.

But in the wake of the turbulent social times of 2018, this step for the WSL is groundbreaking no doubt and, as stated above, is the first of its kind.

But, it’s worth noting that while there are less female surfers on the CT than the men, if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty, the women will be paid more per surfer than the men.

Ballito Pro prize money 520x400

“The WSL argument comes down to the concept of prize-money-per-surfer, which it says shows the equality of pay between male and female competitors. It works like this: say there are 10 surfers competing for a total pot of $100 in prize money. That works out to a ratio of $10-per-surfer. The winner gets $50, and the runners up get the rest. Now say there is a female competition of five surfers. At the same ratio of $10-per-surfer, the total prize money is $50. The winner gets only $25. That was the case at the Ballito Pro, the WSL said. There were twice as many male surfers as female ones: 36 compared to 18. To keep the same money-per-surfer ratio for men and women, the prize money for the female winner had to be half as much as the men.” –

Following a photo from the Ballito Pro going viral due to the first place surfer on the women’s side earning half the prize money than her male counterpart, Layne Beachley told Macquarie Sport’s Radio:

“This prize money discrepancy has been a real subject of contention for years and now it’s come to a position where the industry is going to have to do something about it. It’s not the governing body that has to drive this, well to a degree they do, but the industry is going to have to respond.

When I asked for prize money increases to the ASP, their response to me was, ‘Layne, if we pay you more, the guys will figure out, that percentage-wise, you’re earning more than them, we don’t want to pay them more, so therefore we’re not going to pay you more…it’s good to see we’re making a stand [now] and I have no doubt the industry will respond.”

That response came this morning.

For the CT, equal pay is the new norm. However, on the QS, only events that the World Surf League controls the purse of will feature equal prize money.

However, we’ve been told that they are fighting to get the independent QS events on board with the Equal by Nature #catchthiswave campaign that you’ve probably thumbed through on social media at some point today.

The statements of support from Stephanie Gilmore and Kelly Slater are glowing:

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

“The women on the tour deserve this change,” chimed in Kelly. “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.”

And CT Commish Kieren Perrow stated, “Today is a huge moment for the sport of surfing. With our 2019 calendar, new season and dates, we are proud to confirm the new prize money equality will be in effect. This covers all WSL-controlled events: the Championship Tour, the Longboard Tour, the World Junior Championships and includes the Big Wave Tour starting on October 1st, 2018 to March 2019. We will be working with our partners at competitions where we don’t control prize money, such as certain Qualifying Series events, to achieve equality as soon as possible.”

After a long battle by the WSL to avoid such pay equality, the movement to place women and men’s surfing on the same financial pedestal has won.

It’s here to stay.

Screen Shot 2018 09 05 at 2.31.55 PM

All hands on deck! Photo by WSL


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