Inspirational surfing star Bethany Hamilton has threatened to boycott the World Surf League tour after it changed the rules allowing transgender athletes to compete against women without consultation with the current surfers.
Hamilton only has one arm after a shark attack when she was just 13 years old but has overcome that severe injury to become a popular and successful competitor on the WSL Tour.
Hamilton with her children Tobias, Wesley and Micah. The mother of three and champion surfer has challenged the WSL over its transgender policy, saying athletes weren’t consulted
The WSL has released its International Surfing Association’s (ISA) transgender policy for all of its tours that will allow for all transgender athletes to compete in the women’s competitions.
It comes after a push from athlete’s like Western Australian transgender surfer Sarah Jane Lowerson who recently took first place in both the open Women’s and open Women’s Logger competitions at the West Coast Suspensions Longboard and Logger State Championships in WA.
‘To be the first transgender woman competing in surfing hasn’t been an easy ride emotionally,’ she told Surfing Western Australia after the event.
‘But the amount of support I’ve been shown has been phenomenal and I’m so grateful to be involved, welcomed and embraced within the longboard community in Australia.’
Sarah Jane Lowerson is Australia’s first transgender pro surfer and said she worked with the WSL on its new policy for transgender athletes
Australian surfing champion Kelly Slater believes that transgender athletes should have their own division in the WSL
Australian surfing legend Kelly Slater has also previously called for a dedicated transgender division.
Hamilton released a video on social media slamming the new transgender policy and accusing the WSL of releasing it without consulting female athletes.
‘Today I want to address the news that the World Surf League has officially made the rule that male-bodied individuals known as transgender athletes can officially compete in the women’s division,’ she said.
‘The World Surf League says they are following the Olympic guidelines.
‘While I address this issue, I want to be clear, I strive to have love for all of mankind, regardless of any differences.
‘But this concerns me as a professional athlete that has been competing in the World Surf League events for the past 15 plus years. And I feel that I must speak up and I must stand up for those in position that feel that they cannot say something about this.
I’ think many of the girls currently on tour are not in support with this new rule and they fear being ostracised if they speak up … so, here I go.’
Hamilton has proven to be an inspirational athlete for many after overcoming a severe shark attack injury to become a professional surfer with just one arm
Hamilton of Hawaii competes in the 2019 VANS US Open of Surfing at Huntington State Beach in California
Hamilton then reeled off a host of questions she wants answered by the WSL, including:
‘How is this rule playing out in other sports, like swimming, running and MMA?’ she asked.
‘Have any of the current surfers in the World Surf League been asked what their thoughts and opinions are on this new rule before it was passed?
‘Should there be a conversation with the 17 women and all of the men on tour prior to a rule change such a this?
‘Is a hormone level an honest and accurate depiction that someone indeed is a male or female? Is it as simple as this?
‘Who is pushing for this huge change?
‘Does this better the sport of surfing?
‘Is this better for the women in surfing? If so, how?
‘How did whoever decided these hormone rules come to the conclusion that twelve months of testing testosterone make it a fair and legal switch?
‘Why is the WSL’s statement about trans women competing with women and yet there’s no mention of converted women competing with men?’
Hamilton of Hawaii in action at the Midori Pro in Newcastle during a World Surf League event in Australia
The WSL said the policy could be changed over time subject to feedback from stakeholders including the athletes themselves.
‘The WSL is working hard to balance equity and fairness and it’s important for a policy to be in place,’ WSL Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer said.
‘We recognise that the policy may need to evolve over time as we get feedback and see new research in the field.’