By Andrea Romano
September 06, 2018
Credit: Digital First Media/Orange Count/Getty Images

The World Surfing League has announced that starting in 2019, equal prize money will be awarded to both female and male athletes across all WSL-controlled events. The new policy makes the WSL the first U.S.-based global sports league to offer gender pay equality.

Athlete Stephanie Gilmore, a six-time world surfing champion, hailed the new policy. “I’m proud of the WSL because they’re willing to make that change; it’s such a young sport, we can dictate how we want it to be, be progressive,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“I hope this serves as a model for other sports, global organisations and society as a whole," added Gilmore. “The prize money is fantastic, but the message means even more.”

Even non-surfing athletes like Billie Jean King, who lead the battle against gender pay inequality in tennis during the 1970s, have lauded the announcement.

“Cheers to the WSL for their commitment to gender pay equality. Progress is happening,” King tweeted.

According to a BBC survey conducted in 2017, 35 out of 55 sports that were included in the study, paid equal amounts to men and women.

Journalist Alice Dempster tweeted a famous photo of two WSL surfers for a junior competition in South Africa from June, holding their prize money. The female champion has with a check in hand that was half of what the male winner had.

Since the current series of competitions for 2018 is ongoing, the WSL is waiting until next year to roll out the new policy. It will cover the world championship tour, longboard, junior and big wave tours, but not necessarily qualifying series run by partners, The Guardian reported.

“We will be working with our partners at competitions where we don’t control prize money, such as certain qualifying series events, to achieve equality,” said WSL commissioner Kieren Perrow.