Male or female, waves don’t discriminate, so why should a professional sports league? That’s the thinking of the World Surf League (WSL), which announced on Sept. 5 that starting in 2019, female and male competitors will receive equal prize money across all league-controlled events.

“This is a huge step forward in our long-planned strategy to elevate women’s surfing and we are thrilled to make this commitment as we reveal our new 2019 schedule,” World Surf League CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said in a statement. “This is the latest in a series of actions the League has undertaken to showcase our female athletes, from competing on the same quality waves as the men, to better locations, and increased investment and support.”

The move makes the WSL the first professional sports league based in America to implement gender pay equality.

It’s a huge deal, as evidenced by the fact that in WSL events in Australia in 2018, the top male took home $100,000 while the women’s winner collected just $65,000.


Surfing legend Kelly Slater offered his support of the ground-breaking move.

“The women on the tour deserve this change. I’m so proud that surfing is choosing to lead sports in equality and fairness,” he 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.”

Following the announcement, Australian surfer Stephanie Gilmore gave her take to The Players’ Tribune.

“I feel like the momentum in our society to have this conversation is incredible — because it’s not just in surfing, or in sport, that women are fighting for equality in the workplace. It’s everywhere, and I really hope this decision can be the start of a much bigger movement not only in sport, and eventually, in society.”

And that’s a wave of change worth riding.