Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton made waves over the weekend when she announced she would not participate in the World Surf League if it allows men to compete in the women’s division.
“I want to be clear that 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 stand up for those in positions that they feel that they cannot say something about this,” the “Soul Surfer” author said in a video posted to her Instagram account.
WSL quietly announced last week that it plans to implement a new rule allowing male athletes to participate in female surfing competitions so long as they maintain a testosterone level of less than 5 nmol/L (nanomoles per liter) for 12 months prior to the women’s event.
The rule, which only requires competitors to self-report their testosterone levels, is based on a policy by the International Surfing Association in October 2022. That policy was adopted shortly after a male surfer won the women’s divisions of the West Coast Suspensions Longboard and Logger State Championships in May 2022.
“The WSL is working hard to balance equity and fairness and it’s important for a policy to be in place,” the newly promoted WSL Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer told The Inertia. “We recognize that the policy may need to evolve over time as we get feedback and see new research in the field.”
For asking questions and standing up for herself and other female surfers who “are not in support of this new rule” because “they fear being ostracized if they speak up,” Hamilton was smeared as “transphobic.” For not accepting the WSL’s narrative that the rule promoted “equity and fairness,” she was deemed “controversial.”
Yet Hamilton is right. There’s nothing fair about pitting women against men in a physical competition, something most Americans oppose. There’s also nothing controversial about speaking that truth.
It’s well-known and proven that being male or female isn’t just the result of hormone shifts during puberty. It’s something that begins in the womb and is found in DNA regardless of attempts to tamper with it.
Allowing men who take castration drugs to compete against women isn’t “fairness.” It’s a rejection of the fact that sex is intrinsic and a slap in the face of female athletes who have devoted their time and effort to their sport.
“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 or announced? Should there be a conversation with the 17 women and all of the men on Twitter prior to a rule change such as this? Is a hormone level an honest and accurate depiction that someone indeed is a male or female?” Hamilton asked in her video. Later, she wondered whether a rule like this “betters the sport of surfing.”
The answer is no. Miley-Dyer already admitted this rule was implemented at the behest of “a lot of different stakeholder groups,” not the surfers who were already loyal to and competing in WSL competitions. She also acknowledged that data about males in female sports, which already exists, may force the league to change its policy.
As Hamilton notes, allowing men in women’s competitions already exists in sports like “swimming, running, and MMA” and it doesn’t go well. Leagues that made room for males to dominate female athletes masquerade as wins for inclusion. In reality, they just result in losses for females.
Those policies are why men like swimmer Lia Thomas are blowing their female competitors out of the water and preventing them from earning the awards they deserve. Abandoning the truth about biology for a brand of “inclusion” that edges women out of their own sports isn’t “equity.” It’s an injustice that, as Hamilton notes, won’t age well.
“It’s really hard to imagine what the future of women’s surfing will be like in 15 to 20 years down the road if we move forward allowing this major change. But we are seeing glimpses of male-bodied dominance in women’s sports like running, swimming, and others,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton is no stranger to adversity. She lost her left arm at 13 when a shark bit her during a surfing session with some friends. Despite her loss, Hamilton was back on the board less than one month after the attack. Hardworking women like Hamilton and her daughter shouldn’t be subject to competitions that they are doomed to lose to bigger, stronger males.
“My hope is that if I ever have a daughter who is competing in surfing or any sport and also for all those inspiring young generations of women, to have a bright and promising opportunity in her ambition to be the best of the best woman in her sport.”
Hamilton believes the best “solution would be to create a different division” for transgender athletes so that all can have a fair opportunity to showcase their passion and talent.”
If the WSF truly cares about fairness, it would protect its female-only sports competitions from infiltration by males. That’s not just fair, it’s common sense.