The waves of change are rolling in high and fast in the world of professional big wave surfing.
After months of community debate and behind the scenes struggles, the World Surfing League has reportedly decided to give equal top prize money to men and women surfers in its events, which includes the Bay Area’s Mavericks competition.
The Committee for Equality in Women’s Surfing (CEWS), intensified its fight after a plan was proposed in July offering $25,000 for the top male surfer and $15,000 for the female winner. CEWS members and supporters, including elite surfers, railed at the notion the prizes were set by the quality of the competition and marketability.
After the WSL contacted CEWS leaders with the concession for equality, some of them told NBC Bay Area about their excitement and satisfaction.
Big Wave surf champion Bianca Valenti, who many felt had been punished in the past for speaking out, called it a “milestone” and said paying equally is about “accountability.”
“I’m glad the WSL is choosing to be on the right side of history,” said Valenti, adding, “Power to the people!”
Another Big Wave champ, Paige Alms, said, “I have never been so proud to be a part of an organization that is setting the standard for sport! I know this has been an accumulation of a lot of hard work, from a lot of people, for a very long time! I thank the WSL for creating equality for the future generations! This is huge!”
San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan, a fierce longtime advocate for equal pay for women surfers, said, “Bianca, Paige, Keala (Kennelly) and Andrea (Moller) deserve credit for transforming and revolutionizing professional surfing. They took a risk supporting equal prize money. I’ll never forget how my heart sank when Cartel (Mavericks former organizer) retaliated against Bianca and demoted her to alternate because she dared to speak in support of including women in the Mavericks competition.”