Senior Editor
Rio Waida, Zoe Steyn, prize money

Rio Waida and Zoe Steyn, winners of the same event and winners of different prizes.

The Inertia

Remember back in late June when the picture you see above hit the internet? Two winners, one with a check for half as much. Having a penis, it seems, is worth double. Now, a few days later, a crowdfunding campaign has been set up to offset the cost of having boobs. Zoe Steyn, haver of boobs, won exactly half of what Rio Waida won for winning the same event. This is not new, mind you. Not even close to new.

It was at the Ballito Pro Junior, an event backed by Billabong and sanctioned by the WSL, where the newest point of rage was focused. “Surfing the same ocean, with the same equipment and being judged on the same criteria,” wrote ABC, “the under 18 men’s winner walked away with R8 000. Meanwhile, the under 18 women’s champion took home R4 000.”

Of course, the internet noticed the half-sized check and exploded. The image made its way around the world, riling up nearly everyone who saw it. “This is ridiculous,” wrote one internetter with angry fingers. “It is not 1918, it is 2018. The competition organisers should be deeply ashamed of themselves. What are we teaching our girls through this sort of archaic discrimination.”

Then the competition organizers were like, “oh no, we’re not taking the blame for this shit!” and passed the buck to the WSL. “The World Surf League is the governing and sanctioning body of the event that determines all prize money and rankings,” they wrote on Facebook. “We have brought this to their attention for further comment.”


Then the World Surf League was like, “ah shit. This looks bad, you guys. We should explain.” So they did, and it’s at least a partial excuse. It (kind of) explains the difference in prize money all the way to the to tip top of women’s surfing. See, there are half the amount of women surfing, so there is half the amount of prize money. It all comes down to this: prize money is awarded per surfer. “It works like this: say there are 10 surfers competing for a total pot of $100 in prize money,” ABC explained. “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.” In essence, the men get twice the money because there are double the competitors.

See? Parity! Equality! Sort of, but not really. Kind of, but almost not. So close, but still oddly far. The fact remains that Zoe won half as much money as Rio which, on its face, isn’t fair. Enter the crowdfund, started by a woman named Lauren Jauncey. “Like many other people out there, this photo has really pissed me off,” she writes. “There is absolutely no reason why this young talented woman, Zoe Steyn, should receive a winners prize cheque that is less than her male counterpart.”

The campaign came about from something that happened a few years back. “Five years ago, when I was working for Australia Post,” Jauncey explained, “the prize pool for the Stawell Gift (Australia’s richest foot race) was $60K for the men versus $6k for the women. As the major sponsor of the event we demanded change. As a result, Australia Post now sponsors the women’s race so that it is equal to the men’s race – $60k prize pool. Surprise surprise the number of entries in the women’s race has now significantly increased!”


All Jauncey wants is to raise for Steyn is AU$400, which will make up the difference in prize money. In her own words, she wants to “make sure she feels just as worthy as her male peer.” Anything over that gets donated to the Layne Beachley Foundation, which “is committed to helping women succeed by providing financial and mentoring support for them to reach the next level.”

It’s not the only campaign one photo has lit a fire under, either. A South African group started one called The Women Love Sport campaign. “The Women Love Sport (WLS) campaign is a collaborative movement of ordinary people seeking to respond to the incident in which a young teenage girl won half the prize money of her male counterpart in a surfing competition in South Africa,” it reads. “The question is: Can public outcry lead to positive change? We think it can. Let’s do more than just criticize, and show the world that women, and men, are willing to show up for women in sport. This Women Love Sport (WLS) campaign specifically aims to contribute funds to women’s surfing in South Africa.”

As of Monday, 26 people have donated nearly $1000 to Lauren Jauncey’s campaign, so Zoe’s got her equal pay in the bag. Now all that’s left is making that equal pay happen without having to crowdfund it.

Donate with the crowd HERE.


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