Last week, a photo of under 18 men’s and women’s surfers, Rio Waida of Indonesia and Zoe Steyn of South Africa went viral on social media, highlighting a very noticeable discrepancy in the value of the prize money top contestants were awarded based on gender, at the Ballito Pro event presented by Billabong.
Popular blog, Wavescape, shared one of the angry responses triggered by the image that received over 7000 shares on Facebook alone.
Despite the increasing media coverage and community concern, the industry stakeholders maintained their reasons for the using the parity systems based on entrants to justify the prize money discrepancies.
“Initially, the Ballito Pro was swift to pass the buck to the WSL (World Surfing League) which is the sanctioning body for all WSL-affiliated events. After days of silence, the WSL finally explained that prize winnings are accounted for by a ratio system of surfers to prize money available – with less women surfing professionally the total prize winnings was thus less,” said Jess Basson, co-founder of community initiative, WomenLoveSport.
Unsatisfied by this, WomenLoveSport, launched a campaign on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy, in hopes bridge the pay gap by appealing to the surfing community for support.
“When I saw the photo of the Ballito Pro Junior winners, I was not surprised as I had been aware of this phenomenon for years. There are reasons for everything however, I don’t think that poor reasoning should be a barrier to justice and progression in any industry. What interested me more was whether those objecting to this photo and what it represented would be willing to engage in further discussion and action,” said Shani van Straaten, co-founder of WomenLoveSport.
The campaign went live on June 28, 2018 and has thus far raised R 5 945, 29 with contributions from 14 donors.
According to Basson, the funds will be used in following ways:
- Make a donation towards the female winners at the Ballito Pro 2018.
- Make a fund available to supplement women’s contest winnings in other local surfing contests.
- Make a donation to SurfingSA to further their existing work in women’s surfing development.
“Our BackaBuddy campaign aims to achieve restorative justice for women who have been historically disadvantaged in surfing and have not received the same opportunities to be justly treated as professional athletes. Equality for women is a global movement, and no industry is going to be able to ignore it. I’m excited to see a significant positive change for women’ in sport,” added Basson.