World Surf League announces equal prize money for men and women

Six-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore has backed the World Surf League's decision to offer equal prize money to men and women. Morgan Hancock/Action Plus via Getty Images

The World Surf League has announced an equal prize money structure for male and female competitors, becoming the first US-based sports league to deliver gender pay equality.

From 2019 the organisation will award equal prize money to men and women at all elite tour events in a move backed by both male and female surfers.

Six-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore said she was "thrilled" by the message the World Surf League had sent and hoped it would resonate with other sports.

"I hope this serves as a model for other sports, global organizations and society as a whole," the Australian told the World Surf League website.

"My fellow women athletes and I are honored and inspired to reward this decision with even higher levels of surfing."

11-time world champion on the men's side Kelly Slater said the move towards equal prize money for his female compatriots was timely and hard-earned.

"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."

Surfing will make its debut at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo as its supporters look to expand on an already fast-growing audience.

From 2019 the Championship Tour, the Longboard Tour, the World Junior Championships and the Big Wave Tour will all see equal prize money in play, while Qualifying Series events and other competitions not organised by the WSL will come under pressure to follow suit.

WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said in a statement the sport would continue to push forward in its bid for gender equality:

"This change is simply the right thing to do for the WSL and we would like to thank the many advocates who have worked for decades to help advance women's surfing," she said.

"We want to be at the forefront of pushing for equality in all walks of life, starting on the waves, and we feel very lucky to have women on our tour who are highly talented, iconic role models, and more than deserve this recognition as they stand alongside our extraordinary male athletes."