World Surf League to offer equal prize money to women

LEMOORE, Calif. (AP) — The World Surf League will award equal prize money to women and men for WSL-controlled events beginning with the 2019 season.

World Surf League CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said prize money equality is part of a long-range strategy to elevate women’s surfing and has been in the works since the new ownership group took over in 2013.

The change, announced Wednesday in advance of this weekend’s Surf Ranch Pro, is “to really give more women a chance to compete on tour and elevate women’s surfing to a place it should be,” Goldschmidt said. “It’s another step on the journey but it doesn’t end here.”

Six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia called it “a historic day, really. I’m so impressed, so proud to be a surfer, so proud that the WSL are willing to step up and be a progressive sport and make a statement to the world.”

Gilmore said there has been talk about increasing women’s prize money, “but in 2018 it’s not enough to talk about it. You need to make it happen. To hear that news, I’m so excited. I didn’t think I’d see it in my career.”

The WSL currently has prize money parity, Goldschmidt said, for the 36 men and 18 women on tour. First-place prize money at each Championship Tour event for men is $100,000 out of a purse of more than $600,000, while first-place money for women is $60,000 out of a purse of more than $300,000.

Goldschmidt said prize money for the 2019 tour has yet to be determined, but that women’s places 1-18 will earn the same as the men’s 1-18 finishers.

Kelly Slater, an 11-time world champion, said he’s happy with the move to prize money equality.

“The women on the tour deserve this change. I’m so proud that surfing is choosing to lead sports in equality and fairness,” Slater said. “The female WSL athletes are equally committed to their craft as the male athletes and should be paid the same. Surfing has always been a pioneering sport, and this serves as an example of that.”