April 23rd 2014
After watching the women surf at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach in Victoria over the weekend, one commentator was so impressed he called it one of the “best rounds of women’s surfing ever,” and offered Australian Sally Fitzgibbons the ultimate compliment in this male-dominated sport; she was as good as a bloke, “like [Kelly] Slater in his prime”.
Anyone who watches the sport closely already knows that the women who compete on surfing’s World Tour are incredibly talented and watchable athletes. The real news is that finally a group of people with money and clout have also realised how good the girls are and, most importantly, how unsustainable it is to support rampant gender discrimination in a professional sporting competition.
This year’s World Tour – of which Bells is the third event – is under new ownership after a private Californian company called ZoSea Media Holdings purchased the tour from the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP). While the billionaire investors behind the company have said little publicly, their actions suggest they think sexism is bad business.
Edition 40: Women and Power
JUST after dawn on a grey muggy morning in February 2012, some of the best surfers in the world, along with their sponsors and event officials, gathered on a beach in southern Queensland, all eyes on the ocean. It was the first day of the opening event in professional surfing’s annual competition, a season that would see the best surfers – male and female – compete around the globe for millions in prize money and lucrative sponsorship deals, and a decision needed to be made.
The location, Snapper Rocks, is famous for an unusually thick sand bank that lies on the ocean floor, at its best, transforming the waves that roll over it into long barreling cylinders perfect for riding. This morning, though, the swell was small and tide too high for the bank to work its magic; unsteady waves messily peaked and collapsed without a tube in sight. But the event was on, and someone had to surf.
Asking a surfer to paddle out and compete in poor conditions is a necessary evil in professional surfing; nature shows scant regard for competition timetables. Yet it’s something every elite surfer hates and vociferously resists. Good waves equal a better performance; a chance to be your best, achieve greater renown, and potentially, more sponsorship dollars.
The decision of event organisers that morning at Snapper Rocks surprised no one. Send the women out to surf, and let the men wait until conditions improve.
New Matilda 16th February 2010
Just before she married, Helen LaKelly Hunt’s father called her fiancé into his study for a two-hour, closed-door meeting. She was told later it was to discuss her “financial situation”, something no one had ever spoken to her about. As the daughter of one of America’s richest men — Texan oil tycoon H.L. Hunt — Helen says she was expected to be no more than “a southern belle who just smiled sweetly at the smart men who handled the money”.
Today, at 61, Hunt is a successful businesswoman, feminist activist, and one of America’s leading philanthropists. The pivotal moment for Hunt in breaking out of what she calls her “golden handcuffs” was when she discovered the extent of her wealth by reading about it in Forbes magazine. She also discovered that her money was held in a trust fund controlled by her brother’s fraternity “brother”. The fight to regain control of this fund was, she says, “radicalising”.