Equal by Nature

Kevin Holcomb

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Banking on the brutal beauty of mother nature, surfers are one of a kind. Conquering big waves is what they do, but in 2019, they will catch a new wave.

On Sept. 5, professional surfers rode a huge wave right into the world of sports. Starting in 2019, the World Surf League (WSL) will close their gender wage gap in all WSL events. 

“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,” their press report read.

Equal prize money will be given to male and female athletes during their 2019 season and beyond, closing a remarkable 35% pay gap. In prize money, the gap was seen earlier this year in Australia where WSL men’s winner received $100,000, compared to the $65,000 given to the women’s winner. Note that men’s and women’s events mirror each other in surf and scoring.

The WSL became the first and only US based global sports league that will reward male and female athletes equal prize money in their events. This groundbreaking announcement came with the release of the 2019 WSL season schedule. 

“This is the latest in a series of actions the League has undertaken to showcase our female athletes, from competing on the same quality waves as the men, to better locations, and increased investment and support,” Sophie Goldschmidt, CEO of WSL said.

WSL Commissioner, Kieren Perrow included, “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.”

Statements and reactions from WSL athletes follow:

“The women on the tour deserve this change. 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.” said, Kelly Slater, who is a holder of 11 World Championships.

“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,” Stephanie Gilmore, six-time World Champion said.“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 World Surf League is one of the fastest-growing sports league on the globe, WSL content and live coverage is now digitally available in every market and surfing has also been added to the roster for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

This groundbreaking announcement will not go unnoticed and will be seen globally as it spreads through the media. A growing sport and a growing race, “Equal by Nature” is the slogan of the WSL movement. “Female athletes are equally committed to their craft as male athletes and should be paid the same,” Slater said. The WSL hopes this movement continues throughout sports and the workplace.

“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. 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,” Goldschmidt said as she, expressed her excitement and gratitude.

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Equal by Nature