Daniel Friedman
3 minute read
27 Jun 2018
9:23 am

Billabong Ballito Pro in surfer sexism saga

Daniel Friedman

A surfing tournament that took place in Durban has come under fire after a photo revealed that the women's winner received half the prize money of her male counterpart

Both winners surfed the same ocean, under the same conditions, with the same equipment - but got very different prizes. Picture: Facebook

The Ballito Pro surfing event came under social media scrutiny on Tuesday after a picture of the two victors of the competition, proudly displaying their giant cheques, showed that the female winner was awarded exactly half what her male counterpart received.

The Billabong-sponsored surfing tournament, which took place at Ballito – a seaside town 40km north of Durban – saw the winners split into a male and a female category.

Thousands of angry social media users have reacted to what has been called ‘blatant sexism’ when it was discovered that the two winners, Rio Waida from Indonesia and South Africa’s own Zoe Steyn, were awarded dramatically different prizes for surfing the same ocean, with the same equipment and judged by the same criteria.

Waida is seen holding up a cheque for R8 000, while Steyn’s is for R4 000, exactly half of what the male counterpart won in the surfing battle.

In an official response on Facebook, the organisers shifted the blame, saying they had not decided on what the prize money would be.

“The World Surf League is the governing and sanctioning body of the event that determines all prize money and rankings. We have brought this to their attention for further comment,” the tournament organisers said.

A difference between the amount awarded to men and women seems to be fairly common in the world of surfing.

READ MORE: Women deserve the same income as men

At the Las Americas Pro Tenerif event earlier this year, Mikaela Greene received $6 000 for winning the women’s event, while the men’s winner, Ruben Vittoria, took home $10 000.

“It costs the same amount of money to travel here for the women’s and the men’s, and it’s hard to fund. So I think it would be nice to be rewarded the same as the guys,” said Greene at the time.

This sentiment was echoed by Women’s World Surfing champ Stephanie Gilmore, who told American Broadcasting Company (ABC), “at the end of the day, we’re travelling to the same places, we’re putting in as much effort and passion and time, and we train as much, and we kind of have to look at it as equals”.

While the prize money at a competition is different to a monthly salary, some have suggested that the scandal at Ballito Pro is evidence of the gender pay gap, a term used to described the average difference in pay that men earn compared with women in the same positions.

A study released by Africa Check in September last year came to the conclusion that a tweet from car company Hyundai alleging that “women earn 27% less than men” is “mostly true“, particularly in the context of South Africa.

In the study, Stats SA is cited as having come to the conclusion that women earn 23% less than men, while the figure of 27% was based on 2017 data from a South African market research firm.

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