[http://active.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/femalesurf.jpg]In surfing, the participation and performance of women have been surging, boosting industry profits. But going on 50 years since Kathy Kohner Zuckerman (nicknamed Gidget), earned grudging respect from the guys — and two weeks after pledged to pay equal prize money to women — gender equity for the sport remains a point of contention.
The Association of Surfing Professionals men’s and women’s world tour seasons began last week on Australia’s Gold Coast, near Brisbane, with the men’s Quiksilver Pro and the women’s Roxy Pro. The contrast is stark.
On the men’s tour, 45 surfers compete in 10 events, with the Quiksilver Pro offering $300,000 in prize money. The women’s tour consists of 17 surfers in seven events. The Roxy Pro, which was won by Chelsea Hedges on Monday, paid a total of $80,000 in winnings. Layne Beachley, the seven-time and defending women’s world champion, said the surf industry needed to do more.
“There is always room for improvement, both at the elite level and at grass roots,” Beachley, 34, said in an e-mail message from Australia. “And considering the industry have made an enormous amount of money through its representation of this lifestyle, I feel that the disparity between the incomes of the men and women still have a long way to go to become ‘equal.’ ”