Bumps Appear In Surfing's Gender Equality Wave

Feminist surfer Lucy Small has just won a battle in her fight for equality. She has announced that the Kirra Longboard Klassic event now added a women’s division with equal prize money after initially erasing the division.

bumps appear in surfings gender equality wave
A surfer rides a wave as a super blood moon rises above the horizon at Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia, on May 26, 2021. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Ms. Small is continuing to have to battle for equality in surf competitions. The fight to surf is becoming increasingly difficult as seen after the open women’s division was dumped from The Kirra Longboard Klassic starting on July 29 on the Gold Coast.

After being told that the prize pool of $5,500 (US$3,700) could not be split, Ms. Small hijacked the competition by organising for 15 of the 16 spots to be filled by women. She then persuaded the last entry to show solidarity with the girls and give up his spot.

Her efforts were successful in the recreation of the women’s event even though the director of the Kirra Longboard Klassic, Sean McKeown told the ABC, “The girls are not particularly good. There’s only a few of them in Australia that are really good at high performance.”

He went on to say, “I don’t think it’ll be quite as good a spectacle.”

Surf competitions make their money often via the number of people they attract and thus with the heightened hype around this division, the spectacle may be particularly worth watching and thus generate larger crowds than in previous years.

Steve Del Rosso, the sponsor of the open division, gave his opinion on social media about this attention.

If I thought or knew this was going to happen, I would not of been any part of it, Lucy. It was never in my intention to have anything like this happen. Or to have this reaction as all I was trying to do was honour an old mate,” he said. “I definitely won’t be sponsoring any more events now. As this was the last thing I needed.”

Series of Steps

Ms. Small is no stranger to publicity. After winning the Curly Mal Jam Pro Longboard competition in April 2021, she received $1,500 compared to the male prize of $4,000.

Ms. Small’s victory speech went viral. She said winning was bittersweet because her performance was worth less than half of her male counterpart. She gained a lot of support after this speech with Global Surf Industries to pay the difference in prize money.

Yet the battle had just begun.

Ms. Small submitted a petition to the New South Wales (NSW) parliament calling for gender equality in sports to be enshrined in law as it is in the U.S., who had introduced an “equal pay for equal play” law in 2019. It is now illegal to pay men and women a different amount in Californian athletic events.

The World Surf League also mandated equal prize money in 2020 at top-level competitions.

In Australia, local government motions have now been passed in regards to “equal pay for equal play”, and in Victoria, local councils must show equal access to government funding applications for sporting facilities.

The publicity Ms. Small has created has seen Surfing NSW make it mandatory for affiliated clubs to offer women equal prize money.

The Surfing Australia 2023 rule book also now states, “In surfing competitions where there is prize money allocated, we require equal prize money and investment for both Women and Men’s surfing divisions.”

Although in May this year, the equal pay mandate was broken by the Noosa Malibu Club, with the male open division winner receiving $718 and the women’s open division winner receiving $505. This resulted in Surfing Australia issuing the club with a “first and final warning.”

Ms. Small’s campaigning has been recognised by a nomination at the Australian Surfing Awards.

While not winning this award, Ms. Small has garnered a support base across a number of sports, including surfing’s Mick Fanning and Stephanie Gilmore, Chloe (AFLW), Alicia Eva (AFLW), Kalindi Commerford (Hockey), Matilda McDonell (netball), and Brandon Jack (AFL).

Ms. Small is continuing her campaigning for female surfers and their conditions with her recently made film, Yama.

The documentary offers a view of Ghana’s flourishing surf and skate scene and the conditions under which West African women practice.

Yama dates are coming soon to Australia. For an update visit https://www.yama-film.com/watch

Authored by Nicole James via The Epoch Times July 19th 2023