Women’s sports, while still having distance to travel to achieve parity with men’s in terms of audience, adulation and earnings, have never been as high profile as they are today.
Just this week, American soccer star Megan Rapinoe took on President Trump, no less. Her stance over LGBT rights among other issues has seen her dropping a knee alongside Colin Kaepernick in the past, refusing to sing the Star Spangled Banner currently, she recently stated she wouldn’t be visiting the White House in the event of an invite.
More power to her.
Meanwhile, the Women’s World Cup is being held in France right now, and it’s pretty epic if you ask me. In terms of entertainment, drama, performances, the whole package, so far it’s been a lot more interesting than most male tournaments in recent decades (with the exception of Russia last year, which in fairness was pretty good).
Meanwhile, women’s surfing appears to go from strength to strength. With equal prize money across the WSL structures, a superb live broadcast (albeit mostly done by men) and big wave performances blowing minds, it’s hard to remember back to the bad old days when you’d arrive at a venue to see a mass crowd exodus as the men went on hold/off for the day and the women were sent out.
I was on the cliff at Nazaré last year when Justine Dupont was dominating the Live Tow Sessions to the point where onlookers were going “Who’s that guy? He’s killing it” as the Frenchwoman snagged one gigantic peak after another from a heavy international crew of male big wave legends.
Elsewhere, the recent Stab Ladybirds invite clips indicate that the future looks very bright indeed. The likes of Sky Brown, Sierra Kerr, Bella Kenworthy and Caitlin Simmers all seem to be laying down progressive, boundary pushing surfing as a matter of routine. The scary part? Their ages range from 15 down to just 10-year-old.
Which brings me to wonder, is the Women’s CT getting left behind? Is the supposed elite of women’s performance, the cutting edge of 21st century surfing becoming something of parade of conservatism. Of old stalwarts clinging on, bringing us essentially the same fare that’s been served up season after season?
Sure, they’re the best on Earth. Steph and Carissa, ability-wise, are the best two female surfers in history.
But why didn’t anybody do an air in Brazil? In beachbreak conditions ideal for punting? I’m not going to make a pointless comparison to men’s by saying “The men were doing airs every heat, every wave where there was ramp” etc, etc.
Comparing women’s surfing to men’s is moot, tired, irrelevant.
And while calls for the women to surf The Box, Pipe, Teahupoo from some corners hold a certain amount of merit, at the same time, they do sound a little bit like “If they want the same prize money as us…” tinged with the toxic masculinity of old.
I’m not comparing women’s surfing to men’s, I’m comparing women’s surfing to women’s.
If Sky Brown, at 10, can punt tail high fin wafts at Waco, can’t any of the greatest female surf talents ever in history have a crack at an air reverse in Saquarema beachbreak?
The answer is of course, yes. of course they can. Technically they are easily good enough. They’re just… not.
Maybe part of the issue stems from the lack of a credible push from qualifiers, with just a single rookie surfer Brisa Hennessy joining in 2019. Brisa rips, but just one new face on the entire Tour? Is that really the way to keep pushing things forward?
Of course, Caroline Marks have been a massive breath of fresh air, she should win multiple World Titles, she’s that good. But she feels like the exception that proves the rule. Where are the rest? Where’s the next gen of upstarts to push the boundaries? Where’s the female Brazilian storm? The Women’s Tour feels comfortable, stayed.
Personally, I’d love to see a swathe fresh talent come in together and rattle some cages.
Sally’s Yellow Jersey resurgence is a good story, sure, but she’s hardly the future. I can’t imagine she’s suddenly gonna start boosting in her heats as she approaches 30.
Why is the tour essentially snaps and cutbacks, contemporary updates on what Anderson and Beachley were doing 20 years ago?
The answer, I guess, is to maintain the status quo. If you were Gilmore, and you’d won seven world titles on the face, would you risk blowing scores by suddenly starting punting?
No, me neither.
The result feels like the 2019 Women’s CT, while home to the greatest surfers in the world, is short changing surf fans.
And journalists, commentators, media, anyone out there who feels the female athletes are too flimsy to be critiqued fairly, who thinks sycophantic false praise is somehow helping the cause, is doing likewise.
I personally think Women’s CT surfers should be held to higher account.
Championship Tour Women, you’re better than that.