The WSL Women’s World Surfing Tour was back in action for the first day of the 2019 season at Duranbah Beach this morning for the Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro.
I could say that the women are surfing better than ever and it is worth watching every minute of their contest, but to me, that is a tired cliche that died the moment I saw Carissa Moore do an air…when she was 12. The women’s world tour in 2019 follows on years of building momentum, where absolute professional and elite level skills are being displayed, fostered by a tireless behind-the-scenes (small) army of women at the World Surf League who believe in the value of showcasing these talents as much as the surfers themselves believe in chasing world title glory.
So what is new in 2019? Well some obvious and not so obvious observations. Firstly, Isabella Nichols is making a statement. Currently number 1 on the WQS after a blistering Australian Summer, Isabella won the entry trials to the main event two days ago, and went out today to beat seven time world champion Stephanie Gilmore. Isabella has always shown prodigious talent, and it looks like her work with Surfing Australia’s physical trainer Joanna Parsonage is paying off as her surfing technique fuses effortlessly into her developing athletic physique.
The names Keely Andrew and Sage Erickson wouldn’t look out of place in the draw of any CT event. For 2019 though, these world-class surfers are not part of the main fixture of the world tour, but are injury replacements for Silvana Lima and Tyler Wright at this first event. Firstly, I have no doubts that these two exceptional ladies will find their way back again. Sage has already proven her metal by re-qualifying in the past, and Keely is one of the most industrious athletes in all of women’s sport. However, it is the underlying story here that I feel deserves attention. The current level of women’s surfing is worthy of a bigger tour. The qualifying tour is long, expensive and brutal, and I could easily name a dozen women who are world tour worthy (Alessa Quizon, Dimity Stoyle, Holly Wawn, Bianca Buitendag…just to name a few), but are relegated to spending tens of thousands of dollars chasing qualification, in a commercial and sponsorship landscape that crucifies the incomes of female non-tour competitors. So what does this mean in lay-mans terms? Simply, a professional male surfer who is not on the world tour still earns enough from sponsorship to support his career, whereas the overwhelming majority of females surfers who are not on tour do not. The WSL in awarding equal prize money to both men and women are setting the standards.
So this leads me to what I feel will be the biggest story of the Women’s World Tour in 2019. This year will have barrels, airs and world titles, but that will pale into insignificance compared to the overt and overwhelming momentum in the movement for equality that women in surfing are crusading for. 2019 will not be about a single surf story. It will be about the culmination of everyone’s stories, as small and great battles are fought from every corner of the surfing world.
So where does this leave us? It’s simple. Dads and Mums, put your daughters into surfing. Uncles and aunties, take your niece out into the ocean. Brothers, join your sister when she drags you out for a wave. Whether you are a professional athlete, a physio, an athlete manager, a creative agency director, a photographer, a surfboard shaper, a designer, a magazine editor or any other number of professions, know that as a female, you have a future in surfing doing these things, one that has been forged by many great women of the past and is continuing to be forged by countless everyday women whose regular lives belie the torrent of internal passion that is the rising swell of equality in the future.