The League announced that from next year onwards, female athletes will be paid the same prize money as their male counterparts across 180 global events. The decision will make the World Surf League the first and only US-based global sports league to take such a leap.
“The WSL is a progressive, forward-thinking organisation. I think this just re-underlines that,” said WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt.
“It is an important statement, and it is celebrating what is happening in society. It is a movement that has been needed and our female athletes deserve it.”
The World Surf League currently allocates prize money based on the number of competitors in any one event. Because there are still significantly more men competing professionally, women are at a persistent disadvantage.
This pay-system came up against sharp criticism early in the year when a viral photo of a Billabong Junior Surfing Event in South Africa showed a female surfer, Zoe Steyn, accepting a cheque with half the money of her male counterpart who stood beside her.
Goldschmidt stresses however, that WSL’s decision to change the system is not a result of backlash from the photo.
“This is a natural next step for us. We always said it was a question of when and not if. It has always been a part of the conversation since the new ownership group took over in 2013,” she said.
“Since I came on board we’ve had a focus on all aspects of the business, and this has been one. But that is not where it ends. Prize money is an important step, but there are still other things that we want to continue to invest in.”
In correspondence with this decision, the WSL is also ramping up marketing activity highlighting the women’s tour and is focused on boosting viewership. The League will also be honouring female surf legends through its Pioneers Program.
“We are rightly acknowledging and awarding these women for their amazing athletic achievements. For the next generation of surfers to feel that they are being fully compensated equally is inspiring,” says Goldschmidt.
“Hopefully it will inspire more girls of tomorrow to want to become professional and get into surfing.”