What is surfing? Is it what Wikipedia defines as a “surface water sport in which the wave rider rides on the forward face of a moving wave”? Is it its own culture? Is it a profound way of life? However one chooses to think about surfing, we all have the same image come to mind: a long blonde-haired, tan, muscular man, who probably is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
Why is this?
Women and children also surf, but not many people associate those two. Surfing as a sport remains overwhelmingly male with about 300 men to two dozen women. The issue of gender equality is increasingly relevant within the world of surfing.
Gender equality itself is a tougher problem to get a grasp on. Substantiating a way to make sure that equal rights and opportunities are unaffected by gender is something that many workplaces struggle with. Surfing is not outside of these struggles.
Today, women, the minority gender within the surfing world, are having trouble gaining equal pay. Many women go through the same exact training techniques, body breakdowns, and victories as men do. They have long been insisting upon “the same right to risk their lives in competition”. The ocean waves do not discriminate so, why should we?
Looking further into this issue, because there is such a small number of women who do surf professionally, increasing their pay so it would be equal to what the men are paid would not be much of a burden. It would cost the World Surf League less than $35,000 in contests where they spent half a million.
The World Surf League is a California based company which is known for running more than 180 contests around the world. They have justified paying their female athletes less than their male through a “pay parity” formula. This formula calculates contestant prizes that adds amounts based on who joins the contest. Because there are far fewer female athletes than male athletes, less females joined, so they received less prize money.
Maverick’s, a half hour south of San Fransico, is a central part of the battle for the inclusion of women at an equal pay. They promote “fair treatment of people of all races, culture, national origins, genders, gender identities, gender expressions, religions, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic status”.
Digging deeper into equality problems within the surfing world, many people believe that
women don’t have the same capabilities as men do when it comes to riding waves. Many women surfers were infuriated with this. The worst part is, this is not even a recent problem; it has been going on for decades.
A notable event that seemed to get many women unsettled occurred in 2006. The Association of Surfing Professionals stopped holding women’s contests at Teahupoo; in French Polynesia, because of safety concerns. The exasperating part was that they continued to let men compete there.
It seems to have the bias that many people still live with, the fact that men are stronger, more capable, and more suited to do “bigger and better” things, but the waves don’t change size or force depending on who is surfing. According to some women, determination of the efforts of letting male surfers continue to compete, has to do with the idea that men have to prove or establish their manhood.
The fight for equal pay for women in surfing is still current. The problem won’t wash away on its own. There are numerous advocates who put their careers and lives on the line for equal pay, rights, and opportunities.
“[Thank you] for sharing this moment with me right now…because I have never been so proud in my life to be a woman,” an advocate said in an interview with New York Times.
Source: New York Times