Oz surfer Mikaela Greene says the time for parity is now.
“The mens and the women’s prizemoney is substantially different on the QS,” Yallingup surfer Mikaela Green told Tracks. “It costs the same amount of money to travel here for the women’s and the men’s and it’s hard to fund. So I think it would be nice to be rewarded the same as the guys.”
Greene was talking from the Canary Islands. The day before the naturalfooter had taken out the Las Americas Pro Tenerife, pocketing six grand of greenbacks and 1500 valuable QS points. In the men’s event winner Ruben Vittoria had also claimed 1500 points, yet had taken a winner’s cheque of $10,000.
“Look I’m not saying I would beat Ruben, but that’s not what this is about,” continues Greene. “Despite different abilities I feel like we still bring down the crowds. I was just in Florida for the QS comp and the biggest crowds there were to watch Caroline Marks, the local 15-year old. She won and despite the women’s event being a QS3000 and the men’s a QS1500, she received the same prize money.”
A 40 per cent discrepancy is the current standard in surfing, with men’s CT winners currently earning 100 grand as opposed to 60 for the women. Now surfing is hardly alone in this regard. Football, cricket and golf in particular have the biggest prizemoney gaps with last year’s male winner of the US Golf Open pocketing twice as much as their female counterpart.
However that trend is changing. A recent study conducted by the BBC into 68 different sports shows that the pay gap has narrowed vastly in recent years, with rewards in women's sports on the rise. The research found that 83 per cent of sports now pay men and women the same amount in prize money, with tennis being the shining example. It was in 2007 that Wimbledon became the last of the four major tournaments to award equal prize money, with the US Open rolling out pay parity in 1973, the Australian Open in 2001 and the French Open in 2006.
If tennis can do it, why not surfing? Now Greene’s argument of commercial interest might be anecdotal and it’s hard to test without all the data. Over the years for example when broadcasting at events I have seen first hand the webcast figures for events drop dramatically when the event changes from men’s to the women’s.
On the flipside with the WSL’s continued and substantial investment in the sport, the “product”, if we can call it that, has dramatically improved in the last few years. 2017’s World Title race was way more competitive and dramatic than that offered by the men’s. The women athletes too, in my experience, tend to me more articulate, approachable and media savvy. Their social media followings as a result tend be huge.
For what’s it worth, I think Greene’s argument is hard to break down, although no doubt plenty of males will try to do just that. Women are surfing the same wave, at the same event with the same ratings, yet receiving less prizemoney. And surely that’s just not fair, right?