It was supposed to be a grand showcase of paddling, which it was. Only the women wanted in, too. For the second year in a row, the Red Bull Heavy Water event in San Francisco (this year won by Casper Steinfath), didn’t include female stand-up paddlers. And that caused an uproar from the female paddling community as many of the sport’s most prominent female racers launched a social media protest during the event, which ran today.
Athletes like Annabel Anderson, Candice Appleby, Fiona Wylde and others held up signs reading, “#ipaddleforequality” and posted pictures of the signs around social media in protest of not being included in the race that boasted a $50,000 prize purse with $20,000 going to the winner.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Appleby. “It’s not brain surgery. It’s not hard to figure out. We’re humans.”
But organizers contradicted the lack of invite in a joint statement released to The Inertia by the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals and Red Bull. “The sponsors and organizers of the Red Bull Heavy Water event discussed engaging female participants with the Paddlers’ Collective in early September when the event was announced,” read the statement. “But no follow up on behalf of the Paddlers’ Collective was made. Red Bull and the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals hope that they will see female participation in the Red Bull Heavy Water in 2018 and subsequent years.”
The statement certainly adds ambiguity to the situation. And it was not immediately clear what the ‘Paddlers’ Collecctive’ is.
Regardless, the sport’s best female athletes were not pleased. “What (the lack of an invite) raised was the wider issue that myself and other females have been challenging for many years,” wrote Anderson, whose enjoyed a stellar year of racing, on her Facebook page, “To be treated with the equality of opportunities that are extended to our male contemporaries. It is not a question of skill or performance, I have personally proven every year that a female is capable of delivering a performance equal to those of the top men.”
According to Appleby, APP organizers reached out to Appleby and Wylde to extend a last-minute invite. They weren’t happy about the makeup call. “Shortly after this matter was brought to public attention via social media post by Annabel Anderson earlier this week, the APP Tour Director reached out to myself and Fiona Wylde to discuss the matter in a last-minute effort to get female competitors, three days before the event. This is extremely unprofessional,” wrote Appleby. “We deemed this unfair and very disrespectful.”
This story was updated with a joint statement from the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals and Redbull and will be updated further as more information becomes available.