Mind the (Pay) Gap

You’ve heard it time and time again. It’s on the news, celebrities are buzzing about it, more women are speaking out against the pay discrepancy. Women are consistently getting paid less than their male counterparts across all jobs. Whether it’s being an actress in Hollywood, a lawyer representing in court, a surfer in the World Surf League, or a snowboarder in XGames, a majority of the time women are getting the short end of the funds.

Photo provided by  WSL Twitter

Photo provided by WSL Twitter

I just have to put this out there, but the way the surfing industry is thinking is so damn progressive compared to all other sports right now. The World Surf League aka the WSL on September 5, 2018 announced that any contest that they control in 2019 there will be equal pay for the men and women athletes. Already, the WSL distributes the prize purse based on the proportionate number of athletes in an event. This is something that people are calling for in snowboarding instead of equal pay!!! Surfing has already been doing it this whole time. They are 2 steps ahead of everyone and the existing pay system will not accomplish pay equality until there is an increase of the women’s field. Which shits on the idea of increasing the women’s pay as numbers grow. You go WSL. Making things happen.

Surfing has already been doing it this whole time.
— Nirvana realizing the current state of things

In my opinion, this has been a long time coming. I am an outsider who isn’t in the surf industry, but I feel like the women are promoting surfing just as much as the men are, if not way more than them. On top of the contests and training for said contests, most of them have to double as bikini models, write inspiring quotes on Instagram, be role models, etc. etc. They’re covering more ground, making more impressions, and overall (hopefully) inspiring more girls to go surf or at least hang outdoors.

Side note something I’ve always wanted to see is more girls having video parts in surf films. Sure you’ve got De Passage, which overall I love, but the montage of chicks under 4 minutes sharing a section labeled “the girls”, was extremely underwhelming. I want to see more than that or just one movie about one female surfer. I want variety. More. More. More. Is it because women don’t have the same opportunities as men in filming too? Or is it because they have to solely focus on contests? Another discussion for another time, but at least the women get to be able to rely on prize purses if they’re surfing in the WSL. End side note.

If they really wanted to make an impact, this was the perfect opportunity to pay men and women equally.
— Gela, Passionate Snowboarder

After Hot Dogs and Hand Rails at Bear Mountain last weekend there was some stirring of the pot about equal pay in snowboarding. As a rider in it I honestly didn’t know the pay out this year until about half way through the competition (my bad) but after knowing what we’ve gotten in the past it was kind of self inflicted. Ignorance is bliss when you’re riding the same course and the payout is only 1k. Then when I heard what it was my first reaction was: Hell yeah! That’s half of the mens!!! Now post contest there has been some healthy talk with a lot of passionate women snowboarders who were watching the contest and reached out about it.

“It’s a step in the right direction but if they really wanted to make an impact, this was the perfect opportunity to pay men and women equally. As an outsider I don’t know why they weren’t able to fill in all 10 spots for women but there’s way more females that are more than qualified to win the contest so I’m curious as to why the women attendance was so much lower. Did they boycott HDHR for this reason?” - Gela

Doing some research and seeing that the WSL has already been doing the proportionate pay scale, I 100% agree with Gela. To make a statement, the sponsors of HDHR and Bear Mountain should consider equal pay. This contest has weathered industry decline, is always the event kickoff to winter, and has been going strong for 15 years now. The answer to why it was so difficult to fill the spots at HDHR is a little more complicated. Reasons can range from  September being a busy prep month for the winter, travel to California is expensive, school, recovery time, you name it, all of the above. I would like to think that raising the prize purse would attract more heavy hitters to come out in the future…

Leah Bothamley, mother, SoCal native, coach, and backcountry guide professed her feelings of frustration with diversity and equality. Events are closely tied with exposure to non-endemics as well as feeding the core audience. The people who might not be interested in who had the best video part of the year might be interested in watching a contest. Lets say HDHR, the Olympics, XGames? They see another lady or guy getting after it then suddenly they have interest in trying snowboarding. This is a big part of growing the sport and community. Now we have tools like social media to connect and to reach out to each other about things. 

“When we moved to the midwest in the 90s, I was in high school and took up snowboarding around 1995 and I have been living sideways on frozen water ever since. I'm telling you this because my life’s work had been to spread the stoke for this life and sport that saved my life. I want to fan the flames of passion for snowboarding and exploring mountains to everyone I meet. I'm pissed off because it's been an uphill battle for 20 freaking years for me to get women to start snowboarding and stay snowboarding.” - Leah Bothamley

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 9.14.00 PM.png

I FEEL that Leah. Getting women to try snowboarding let alone stay in it, used to be difficult, can still be difficult. I think now with splitboarding, camps like Beyond the Boundaries, local Facebook groups, and overall us talking about it all the time is actually doing something. People like Leah and Gela are utilizing the good that comes from social media and are expressing views and opinions on a open platform. People read it, see it, talk about it. So let’s keep this conversation going, shall we?