SAN MATEO, Calif. (KTVU) - A wave of change is rolling in for female surfers following an announcement by the World Surf League that it will pay equal prize money to men and women in all their competitions.
The news is a win for the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing. The committee was formed in 2016 by professional big wave surfer Bianca Valenti and San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan among others.
“I’m so thrilled because I’ve wanted women to get paid equally all along,” Valenti said.
Valenti won a surfing competition in Mexico in June that paid her $1,850. Her male counterpart won $7,000.
“Just doing other events and not getting equal pay it starts to really hit you in the face, like wow, I just did the same thing and got paid less and at the end of the day we’re trying to make a living,” she said.
The Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing was successful in lobbying the World Surf League for a women’s division at the Mavericks competition in 2016. This past year they focused on the fight for equal pay at Mavericks too and it proved to be a challenge.
“We were basically being told that if the women continue to push for equal prize money that the mavericks surf competition would be cancelled and they weren’t going to hold the event,” Brennan said.
Brennan believes having support from the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission was instrumental in the recent decision to change pay.
“I did not know how much progress we were going to make with that this year,” she said. “We really stuck to our guns and we definitely had to deal with a lot of push back. We just kept at it. We’re very grateful to the World Surf League for making this happen.”
The following statement was released by the World Surf League.
“The development of women’s surfing has been a priority since new ownership in 2013 and has been discussed and developed for a long time by owners, CEO and Executive Team. WSL’s commitment to equality is always top of mind and this announcement simply builds upon this. Moving to equality was always in the WSL’s plans. Now that the 2019 calendar has been confirmed and other factors have aligned, its possible to accelerate this planned next stage," WSL Spokesperson.
Valenti is excited knowing the purse prize will be equal at all WSL competitions globally and hopes this sets a precedent for other sports.
“We’re really hoping that mavericks will happen before the end of 2018 and it will be the first event where women and men get paid equally,” she said.