The WSL website lists the Mavericks Challenge as part of its Big Wave World Tour schedule, on both the men’s and women’s tour, with the waiting period opening Oct. 1.

But, well, that may be a little premature.

Last week, the California State Lands Commission released a report that recommended granting a permit to the WSL to run the event if – and only if – prize money for the men’s and women’s events were equal.

wsl equal pay

Emi Erickson waits for a Mavericks bomb. Photo: Courtesy of Cunningham/SURFER Magazine

It’s not clear if the equal pay demand in that report was the cause, but the WSL reportedly withdrew their application for a Mavericks permit last week and won’t have the opportunity to reapply until the commission meets again on Oct. 18.

A group called The Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing, composed of some of the most well-known names in the big-wave surfing community, earlier this summer called on the California Coastal Commission to demand equal pay for women athletes before they granted any permits for the event. The State Lands Commission obviously heard that plea.

“If you want to promote pro surfing, you have to support the surfers,” Bianca Valenti told me Monday morning. “Including and paying both men and women equally is about accountability. Today is a great milestone and feels pretty silly to be ‘fighting’ for equal pay in 2018.

“The future of the sport is up to all of us male and female. We are all in this together and together we achieve more. A win for women surfers is a win for surfing.”

mavericks equal pay

Bianca Valenti is one of the best big-wave surfers in the world. Photo: Courtesy of Richard Hallman

In their decision, the Lands Commission said, in part that it “believes it is the best interest of the state to require the event to implement certain measures to promote equity by requiring that the amount of compensation awarded to any participants does not depend on gender.”

Guaranteeing equal pay would be an unusual and fascinating step in women’s surfing and athletics in general. It’s rare that women receive the same pay as men in most pro sports, though in recent years there’s been a huge upswing in equitable pay demands among world-class women athletes – the U.S. women’s hockey team nearly boycotted the Olympics before they received a pay raise prior to the Games in Korea.

The Mavericks contest has only run 10 times in the almost 20 years since it was founded in 1999. That’s usually because the swell doesn’t cooperate, but it would be fascinating if it didn’t run this year either because the state stepped in to demand equal pay regardless of gender. Stay tuned.

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