If you’re an astute observer of pro surfing, especially of the longboard variety, you’ve likely stumbled upon a groundswell of dissent among competitive longboarders recently directed at the World Surf League. The kerfuffle can largely be traced back to a (now deleted) Instagram post in early February by Joel Tudor, reigning longboard world champion and San Diego surf icon. Tudor’s main bone to pick with the WSL has been his contention that the League intends to scrap the longboard tour. WSL officials told us in February when we reached out, however, that they were waiting to make a statement until tour dates were solidified.
There’s little doubt that Tudor is one of the most influential – and gifted – surfers to ever wax it up. He’s carried the log-riding torch most of his career. And he’s done it better than anyone. Normal surfers get him. But his social media posts – and perhaps discussions with WSL officials we’ll never be privy to – have apparently gone too far. The World Surf League announced today that it had suspended Tudor from all surf-related League events, effective immediately.
We reached out to Tudor for comment, but have yet to hear back.
“Tudor has been suspended for knowingly making baseless accusations of corruption and instigating social media based-attacks on the WSL and tour leadership,” sources close to the WSL told us. Those same sources described the subsequent “attacks” as particularly disturbing.
One of Tudor’s early social media statements regarding his beef compared metrics between a variety of longboard and shortboard posts on the WSL’s Instagram where the engagement on longboard posts exceeded that of shortboarding. He included the accompanying caption:
“Yo @wsl @jessmileydyer @elo_eriklogan. Can y’all explain this kind of equality? Not very woke of you to treat the log gals with so much disrespect in regards to pay? It’s kinda clear on your own Instagram which style is more favored by your audience! Urging all log gals , parents & friends to write the @wsl asking why this is still happening….also they are planning on canceling the longboard tour to a one event stop! Hit em up, post about it & make some noise to make things right!! Awoooooooooo!”
There is a lot to parse out in Tudor’s public call-out, and as a three-time (and reigning) world longboarding champion who’s amassed a cult following over his lifetime, his opinion probably isn’t taken lightly by the WSL. That and he’s absolutely silk on a surfboard, which helped him win an unprecedented third title last year at the age of 45 (the oldest world champ ever). He’s always been one to speak his mind on issues near and dear to surfing culture, be it localism, marijuana and yes, the WSL – a reason die-hard surfers will likely identify with him instead of the League, or sympathize with the nuances of hosting competitive events. And there’s little doubt he’s championed the women’s side of the controversy.
“My complaint is a win-win for everybody, if they fix it,” Tudor told LogRap in the interview released in February, below. “I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this for the generation that’s out there, that’s growing that’s huge…It’s for the Kelis’ and all the other ones and my son and different people. Just give these guys a fair shake. They’re valid. What they do is cool. They should be respected. You don’t have to pay them what these other guys are making. But you gotta step it up, dude. They hold value, and they hold weight. That was the whole point behind my post. And if you’re denying it, you’re in denial.”
Over the last few weeks, a torrent of polarizing dialog has followed Tudor’s posts, from all corners of the longboarding world. Claims of unfair treatment of longboarders – specifically female longboarders losing payout opportunities echoed across social media (although it must be noted the WSL essentially started the equal pay movement among professional sports leagues four years ago). Many in the longboard community took issue with longboarding imagery playing a meaningful role in WSL marketing and partnerships when its tour and athletes played an objectively lesser role with regard to tour stops and pay. At the time of Tudor’s first post, the WSL had not yet finalized its longboard schedule for the year. It appeared spartan, but incomplete. Which may have provided the calculus to lobby for better representation. “Devon Howard and the Tours and Competition team have been working on the 2022 schedule for a few months now,” a WSL spokesperson told us today. “More information will be shared in the coming weeks.”
While it’s true there are fewer stops and less prize money for longboarders, male and female loggers are compensated equally. For reference, the winning prize purse for a World Longbord Tour event is $10,000 for both male and female competitors. The winning prize purse for a shortboard Championship Tour event like the MEO Pro Portugal is $80,000 for both men and women. The WSL also just wrapped up an International Women’s Day campaign in Portugal where surfers honored famous female athletes on competition jerseys that was lauded by the Olympics and the UFC.
The length of Tudor’s suspension was not specified, but a WSL spokesperson pointed to an article in the League’s rulebook that allows athletes a 10-day arbitration period to present an appeal before the suspension length is handed down. There is the possibility that Tudor could be suspended for a specific length of time, say two to four months, without even missing an event.
This is the first time a reigning world champion (and probably a former) has ever been suspended by surfing’s official governing body.
You can read the WSL’s short statement on the suspension here.