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WSL underfire for pay disparity

WSL underfire for pay disparity

A junior surfing competition has attracted global attention after a podium photo showing the best female winning half as much as the male champ went viral online.

Zoe Steyn won ZAR4000 (AUD$400), while Rio Waida, the male winner, surfed his way to ZAR8000 (AUD$800) at the Billabong Pro Junior series in Ballito, South Africa, on the weekend.

Gender equality is at the forefront of everybody’s lips at the moment and this post attracted huge amounts of criticism for a blatant display of the gender pay gap in competitive surfing

Some the comments on the Facebook post included: “Did the girls surf a different ocean that was easier we don’t know about? This is pathetic.”

“1920 phoned, they want their archaic gender biased ideals back [sad-face emoji],” read another.

Billabong was quick to respond to the public relations issue they had on their hands by passing the buck to the World Surf League.

“Billabong has always been actively invested in and supportive of women’s surfing in South Africa,” wrote Chad D Arcy, event license holder of the Billabong Junior Series in a statement.

“We’ve proudly watched women’s surfing grow over the years, in part thanks to the host of women’s events we’ve run.

“In order for any professional surf event to be internationally accredited, it has to be sanctioned by the WSL and the WSL also determines the allocation of prize money and points for each event,” he said.

World Surf League (WSL) Australia/Oceania Regional Manager, Will Hayden-Smith, said in an interview with ABC, WSL’s concept of equal-prize money involves a “prize-money-per-surfer” strategy. 

“Say there are 10 surfers competing for a total pot of $100 in prize money. That works out to a ratio of $10-per-surfer. The winner gets $50, and the runners-up get the rest.”

“Now say there is a female competition of five surfers. At the same ratio of $10-per-surfer, the total prize money is $50. The winner gets only $25. That was the case at the Ballito Pro,” he said.

“There were twice as many male surfers as female ones: 36 compared to 18. To keep the same money-per-surfer ratio for men and women, the prize money for the female winner had to be half as much as the men.”

The explanation from the WSL has continued to raise questions over the fairness of the algorithms they are using, with some people setting up GoFund Me donation pages.

Will acknowledged that the Ballito Pro photo circulating online could be a bad look for the sport, however, a lot of people don’t know the WSL have reduced entry fees for women to encourage participation.

“At the QS 6,000 pro surf event in Manly in March, the entry fee for the men was US$250 and for women US$150,” he said.

“This was just because we felt that if we charge the same entry fee that would prohibit women from competing.”

“We do want to note the fact we have done a lot of things right at the championship level,” he said.

“We do acknowledge there’s room for improvement.”

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