Tell Top Surfing Competition to Let Women Compete

Target: Jeff Clark, director of Mavericks Invitational surfing competition

Goal: Allow female surfers to compete in Mavericks Invitational, a major surfing contest

While surfing has long been a sport dominated by men, times are changing and female surfers are becoming more prevalent than ever before. So why won’t Mavericks Invitational, arguably one of the largest surfing competitions in the world, allow women to compete? Tell contest organizers to recognize the skills and rights of female athletes–open Mavericks to women.

The surfing world has been fraught with difficulties for women who hope to compete professionally. The U.S. Open of Surfing, for instance, awards women only a fraction of what it awards men in prize money ($100,000 as opposed to $15,000; the ratio even in junior divisions is $4,500 to $1,800). While it is true that fewer women than men are competing in major surfing contests, there is no reason to penalize the female athletes who are competing.

Although the disparity in prize money is a major issue, the fact remains that the U.S. Open of Surfing recognizes female surfers and invites them to compete. Mavericks Invitational, an extreme and risky competition requiring a healthy dose of chutzpah as well as athletic skill, has yet to invite a single woman to participate. Contest director Jeff Clark defended the absence of women in the competition (for now, at least), saying, “We’ve got one day to hold an event for the best of the best…If in 10 years there are 10 or 12 women surfers who surf Mavericks, who knows?” He also remarked that even now, many men who would like to compete in Mavericks are unable to qualify.

Even so, gender should not be a determining factor in qualifying for an athletic competition, and ten years is too long to wait for equality. When asked outright if women should be allowed to participate in Mavericks, Clark did not answer with an unequivocal “no” but instead responded with a vague “We’re not there.” Tell Mavericks that it is about time to get “there.” Urge contest organizers to open the contest to any female surfer who has demonstrated the appropriate level of athletic skill and has the desire to compete.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Clark,

As one of the best-known surfing competitions in the world, Mavericks has the opportunity to set the tone for the entire sport of surfing. So why is the contest stuck in the past in terms of gender equality? I urge you to immediately open Mavericks Invitational to any female surfer who has demonstrated the appropriate level of athletic skill and has the desire to compete.

Female surfers have long struggled to gain the same respect and recognition as their male counterparts. Even today, many competitions remain closed to women, and contests for female surfers regularly offer only a fraction of the prize money male surfers are given. Gender is not a determination of athletic skill or how “deserving” a contest winner is. The only determining factors in an athletic competition should be the training, skill, and performance of the athlete in question. In skirting the issue of allowing female surfers to compete in Mavericks, the contest is sending both men and women the harmful message that athletic skill and value are inextricably linked to gender.

Mavericks is, of course, an invitational, and contest participation is limited to those who have proven their worth as athletes. Many surfers who would love to participate are unable to do so because they have not yet met the necessary standards. No one is suggesting that Mavericks bypass qualified male surfers simply to allow less qualified women to compete. However, if a female surfer has demonstrated the appropriate skill, it is wrong to deny her a spot at Mavericks based solely on her gender.

Take a step forward and set an example for the entire sport of surfing: open Mavericks to female competitors as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: casch52 via Flickr

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