By Dana Zillgitt, Regular Contributor
For generations, the ocean has been an intrinsic part of my family. We’ve been sailors, rowers, surfers, kayakers, swimmers, and boarders. If it brings us to the water, we’re all about it. Which is why it makes me so sad that the World Surfing League is only now just recognizing the need to treat its female surfers as equally and respectfully as their male counterparts.
Because if you’ve ever been around surf culture, that’s a main tenant. Respect.
As part of a new branding campaign, the Association of Surfing Professionals changed its name and became the World Surfing League (WSL). The name change came with a whole new image and branding opportunity. Where did they want to go? Who did they want to be? And the whole respect and equality for each competitor was crucial. But what did this mean for the women who’ve been surfing professionally before the rebranding? As three-time world champion, Carissa Moore, put it,
“It makes me feel like they finally believe in us.”
(took them long enough)
Earlier this month, the Fiji Women’s Pro took place. Average wave size? 10-15 feet. And as a general rule of thumb, that means the face of the wave was about 20-30 feet. For years, female competitors have seen worse conditions during events for far less prize money. And I don’t know about you, but being on a breakable board on an ocean wave 2-3 times my height is terrifying. These fierce competitors make it look not only easy, but like they’re surfing waves half that size.
And the winner, Sally Fitzgibbons, from Australia? She’s 24 and won it all with a busted ear drum she got from wiping out on a wave during the second round. Keep in mind, there were four rounds before the quarter-finals and two more before she took it all in the finals, even going against medical advice. But what did she have to say about it? Fitzgibbons just said, “I came back to regroup and thought it’s not ideal but I really had to give it a shot.” That takes dedication and a real love for the sport, because after all, surfing is just plain fun.
So what does all this BAMF level competitors and image rebranding of the World Surfing League mean for the future of female surfing? Hopefully, increased prize money, more favorable conditions (though, the ocean is always unpredictable), and more respect from the league itself. Hopefully, the WSL will stand by its word and continue making strides towards equality across each division. Because as all water people know, there’s nothing quite like that high of riding a wave or being out in the open water.
Did you watch the Fiji Women's Pro? Have you ever been surfing? How was the experience? Tell us below!
Dana has her BA in International Affairs & Spanish as well as a mild obsession with rescue animals and all things caffeinated. She’s mastered the art of the selfie, fort building, and even the sass battle. Plus, she can quote 95% of Anchorman and Zoolander.
Every girl is a work in progress. If you need more help, click here.