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I am proud to say that all of the invitational longboarding events I have attended have had equal prize purses for men and women, including the Single Fin Mingle in New Zealand.
When I ask friends about 2018, I get a lot of mixed results. Some say it seemed to last forever, while others say it flew by. One noteworthy trend, however, involves the status of women's surfing. Every year, it seems like gender equality in surfing is improving, but 2018 has been especially exciting in terms of reaching new milestones. In honor of this groundbreaking year, I’ve rounded up four of the most exciting events to happen in the female surfing sector in 2018.
1. Equal Pay by WSL
In September, the World Surf League announced that they would be giving out equal prize money to both female and male surfers at all of their events, beginning in the start of the 2019 season. This comes only a few months after an uproar involving a pro junior event in South Africa, in which the female division winner received only half the amount of the male winner. This left a bad taste in many surfing fans’ mouths, myself included, as the underlying message in the scenario was, “women’s work is only worth half the value of men.” This resonated with the community, and WSL knew that they had to take action. While hopefully, this change was already in the works, it does seem like this contest pushed the World Surf League to enact this new policy sooner, rather than later. Many professional, non-WSL affiliated competitions have had equal prize purses for men’s and women’s divisions for years, but as the governing body of surfing, it is important that the World Surf League stepped up to the plate. Hopefully, this progression in surfing can serve as an example to other professional sports, and that in the near future, men and women will be paid equally in every career field.
2. Youngest CT Rookie Ever
This year was Caroline Marks’ debut on the world tour. She had a fantastic year, finishing 7th overall on the women’s CT. The former-Floridian turned Californian was only 15 when she qualified for the tour, making her the youngest WSL WCT qualifier of all time, of any gender. She finished as rookie of the year for the women’s tour, but technically outranked the men’s rookie of the year, Wade Carmichael, who finished 9th in the men’s circuit. The outgoing teenager is an inspiration to young people everywhere, showing that there is no minimum age for success. There’s no doubt that 2019 is going to be a huge year for Ms. Marks, and I can’t wait to see what flair she brings to the women’s tour.
3. Duct Tape Invitational
At this year’s US Open of Surfing, Vans and Joel Tudor hosted the first ever women’s Duct Tape Invitational, after years of putting one or two token women into each of the men’s competitions. I covered this event with a blog post in August, as of course, longboarding is near and dear to my heart, and it was amazing to watch my peers excel with the whole world watching. Since this first women’s contest, Joel has held another Duct Tape Invitational in China, in which there was both a men’s and women’s division - another first. Here’s hoping this is the new normal for these Vans-sponsored contests, and that we see two divisions in each Duct Tape to come.
4. A Seven-Time World Champion is Crowned
Last month, Stephanie Gilmore became the second female surfer to achieve seven world titles, equivalent only to Layne Beachley, who won her last title 15 years ago. The only surfer who has more than seven world titles is the one and only Kelly Slater, with an insane 11 world championships under his belt. Gilmore has had a rocky few years, falling out of favor on the tour after winning her last world championship in 2014. The Australian is one of few surfers who have won world titles in their rookie years, when she started out her WCT career with a bang in 2007. Steph is regarded as one of the most stylish professional shortboarders in the world, her skills are on par with those on the men’s tour, and I am sure she has some more world titles saved in her back pocket for the future.There is a long road ahead before we will achieve equal rights for women in society, and all over the world, women are fighting for their basic rights every day. While equality in surfing is just a blip on the global radar, the advancements that we have made this year serve as evidence that we are making a difference. Our voices have finally been heard, and surfing is becoming a leader in gender equality in sports.