To say 2018 was a big year for women’s professional surfing is a gross understatement. There was a fight for true equal pay, and heart-stopping, contemporaneous performances at the Maui Pro for the women CTers, and Jaws Challenge for the women’s Big Wave Tour. It’s no wonder Outside magazine columnist Andrew Lewis affectionately dubbed 2018 surfing’s Year of the Woman.
And while the victories and momentum of the last year are no doubt deserving of celebration, it should also be noted that change has been hard fought – something not lost during a recent WSL International Women’s Day panel comprised of five current competitors and moderated by current Deputy Commissioner, and former competitor, Jessi Miley-Dyer.
“I remember the US Open in ’09,” explains Courtney Conlogue. “It was my first time actually winning it… and initially, it was going to be $4,500 and the men were going to make $100,000. And I was so excited because [later] there was all this talk going on behind the scenes: ‘They’re going to pay you more.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa, am I getting $100,000?’ And then the check said $10,000.”
But, things are changing. In April, at the season’s first CT event, the top man and woman at Snapper will pocket a cool $100,000 (equal pay has already been instituted across the Big Wave Tour).
There are less tangible changes happening behind the WSL’s curtain, too. Like a frustration Carissa Moore airs about showing up to the beach at events past when the waves are pumping and the men’s event gets greenlit while the women’s contest gets put on hold. That’s changed over the last few years.
“They’re putting faith in us now,” says Tatiana Weston-Webb.
True equity in surfing still has major hurdles – namely discrepancies in sponsorship contracts, the sexualization problem in advertising that pervades, and the like.
But, progress is being made on multiple fronts.
In conjunction with the above release, the World Surf League also announced several other major projects that it’s put in motion: Rising Tides,
clinics for young girls bent on growing the interest among female surfers at every CT stop, and the WSL Heritage series – a crop of contests featuring notable women, trailblazers, and activists in the sport.