At a time where the feminist movement and equal rights are at the forefront of social media and political platforms, you might be surprised to learn that most major sporting events do not pay their female athletes the same as male athletes. The World Surfing League (WSL) plans to do something about that, at least when it comes to the sport of surfing. Starting next year, the WSL will pay equal amounts of prize money to both male and female competitors, making it one of the first major sports organizations to do so.
It’s a big move for the organization. This past summer, two competitors in the same tournament—one male and one female—both posted photos on social media of them holding their prize checks. The male surfer had been paid double what the female athlete had for winning the same tournament. There was an outcry online regarding the disparity in prize amounts. Obviously, the WSL heard the comments, loud and clear.
Just two months later, the California State Lands Commission refused to issue the appropriate permits to host a surfing event unless the male and female competitors had the same prize amounts. Soon after, the WSL announced that they would be completely eliminating the gender gap and would be paying all of their winners, male or female, the same prize money in 2019.
Professional surfers from both genders began to publicly praise the World Surfing League’s decision. Female surfers talked about how proud they were to be part of such a forward-thinking sport. Even legendary (male) surfer Kelly Slater praised the decision, stating in an article in the Player’s Tribune, “What [pro women surfers] 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. And starting now, they’re going to receive equal prize money for it.”
When it comes to battling Mother Nature, a wave is a wave—it doesn’t care what gender the surfer is. Those who conquer it in organized competitions deserve to be paid the same, regardless of their gender.