There’s a Transgender Elephant In The Room & Still, World Surf League Remains Quiet

WSL Transgender Policy
Transgender surfer, Sasha Jane Lowerson competing in the women's division

For decades surfers have upheld the “too chill to care about politics” reputation but when the World Surf League (WSL) released its new policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in the women’s division the surfing community was vocal with their discontent.

Spearheading the debate in Braveheart fashion was professional surfer, Bethany Hamilton (she/her) who took to Instagram with a two-minute video expressing her concerns, questions, and dissatisfaction with this new policy.

Hamilton, whom our sources have confirmed, is a biological female but is no stranger to having the odds stacked against her. She gained an unfathomable amount of attention climbing the ranks of the female surfing division despite only having one arm.

The 2011 film Soul Surfer which grossed 43.9 million dollars yet rated only 46% on Rotten Tomatoes is the famous story of Bethany Hamilton, who at sixteen lost her arm to a tiger shark. The gender of said shark remains unknown.

Fast forward to 2023 and Hamilton is experiencing a new round of support as she criticized the WSL regarding their new transgender policies.

“Are hormone levels an accurate depiction of what makes someone a male or female? Is it as simple as this?”

“Who is pushing for this change and is this better for surfing?”

Hamilton goes on in the video to state she believes the best course of action is to create a separate division “so that all can have a fair opportunity to showcase their passion and talent”.

She concludes her video with the statement “I personally won’t be competing in or supporting the World Surf League if this rule remains. Thanks.”.

It was a nice touch how she added the “thanks” at the end as if she was firing out a stern, passive-aggressive email.

All Jokes Aside

Surfing fans have been persistent on social media demanding dialogue however, the WSL keeps feeding surfing reels to the wolves hoping it will suppress their appetites.

At some relief, to the WSL this debacle has taken place right within the timeframe of the Billabong Pipeline Masters. You’ve got to tip your hat to ’em, the WSL seized this opportunity to flood their instagram feed with over twenty-one new posts in the last 24 hours alone. None of which mention anything about their new transgender policies.

As a male surfer, if I competed against professional women tomorrow the likelihood of my success would be comparable to my seat being called at a Lakers game to take a halftime full-court shot for $50,000.

Satire aside, I have a complete lack of understanding of how difficult it must be to struggle with my identity, gender, and/or sexuality. I empathize with anyone who’s ever been in such a situation and support such individuals wholeheartedly in pursuing athletic achievements. With that on the table, I’d like to offer some of my own reason into this discussion. Or should I say lack of discussion?

I truly believe the surfing community, despite being a relatively agro bunch, have zero intention whatsoever to deny or hinder ANYONE’S ability to compete in the world of surfing.

What I’m seeing from the surfing community is they value fairness above almost anything. It seems as though the WSL and Olympic definitions of what constitutes a woman or a man just don’t line up with the definitions from the majority of athletes and fans that engage with these organizations.

The philosopher Socrates famously said, “The beginning of wisdom begins with a definition of terms”.

A universal definition of male and female must be made and agreed upon. Once that happens, sports organizations need to work within these definitions to provide a truly equal opportunity for all men, women, and transgender individuals.

Until such occurs, this topic will continue to be a point of contention in society.

Will a third division be created?

Will more surfers begin to boycott?

Or will this be swept under the rug until we have a transgender surfer competing?

We’ll continue to update you as this story unfolds…

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Justin Gregory is a surfer and outdoorsman living in Mission Beach, San Diego. After forced to buy a surfboard (one he broke) from a surf shop when he was just 7 years old, this "mistake" ended up being the spark that ignited a passion for the sport. This passion led him to live in San Diego and travel to destinations across Mexico and Indonesia. But if there are two things Justin loves it's an empty lineup and a good story... When he's not in the backcountry or patrolling the coast of Baja for waves you'll find him curating some of the best written pieces on the internet when it comes to surfing. His articulate shoot-from-the-hip writing style has been favored by many readers and we're stoked to showcase some of his work here in the HoStevie! Blog.


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