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'Pushing for equality in all walks of life, starting on the waves' - World Surf League agrees to gender pay parity

The move comes after criticism earlier this year of a disparity between male and female surfers.

Six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore.
Six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore.
Image: Ringo Chiu

THE WORLD SURF League (WSL) has committed to pay parity for all its athletes by confirming they will be providing equal pay for male and female surfers starting in 2019.

The move makes it the first US-based global sports league to implement the standard of pay parity under all WSL controlled events.

CEO Sophie Goldschmidt confirmed the move this week, hailing its introduction as “a huge step forward in our long-planned strategy to elevate women’s surfing”.

“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,” she said in a statement.

“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, who was unveiled as the WSL’s first female CEO in 2017, was asked about the issue in July, claiming that the differing numbers of men and women competing under the WSL banner caused them to make an adjustment in how their prize money was distributed.

Source: The Mermaid Society/YouTube

Questions came after the June’s Ballito Pro Junior Tournament, where South African Zoe Steyn was pictured alongside her male counterpart, Indonesia’s Rio Waida, holding aloft a cheque with exactly half the amount of winning prize money.

The move has been hailed by many of those within the sport, including six-time world champion, Stephanie 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.”

Kelly Slater, 11-time world champion on the men’s circuit, insisted that “the women on the tour deserve this change.”

He added: “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.”

In May, the New Zealand football’s governing body committed to guaranteeing pay parity for both men and women who represented their country.

Sarah Gregorius said at the time it was “an awesome line that we’ve now drawn in the sand”.

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Cian Roche

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