It is here! According to the World Surf League (WSL), the “longest running and most respected celebration of professional surfing in the world” will take place from November 12-December 20, 2015, in the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. The culmination of the WSL 2015 World Tour has come to a head at the tripartite 33rd Annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. At the HIC Pro, Ian Walsh (HAW) won the preceding the event and official local qualifier. The competition commences with a series of three events: the Hawaiian Pro, the Vans World Cup of Surfing, and the Billabong Pipe Masters. The Hawaiian Pro and the Vans World Cup of Surfing play a vital role in earning points for the final event of the WSL Men’s World Tour, the Billabong Pipe Masters.
What a year it has been! Australia’s Mick Fanning battled sharks, Brazil’s finest, and the tricky European leg of the men’s tour to make his way into the number one spot. However, his leading margin is a narrow 200 points. Runner up, Filipe Toledo (BRA) and his comrades are still in this. Kelly Slater (USA) has dropped to number 9 in the rankings, a shocker after the controversy surrounding his attempted air.
The Women’s 2015 World Tour has been arguably just as fascinating to observe, if not more so. These girls are tough. Owen Wright (AUS) is equally ranked at 5th with his sister, Tyler. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) had to take some time out for an injury. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) proved how tenacious women in surfing are, winning at Fiji despite her blown eardrum (Boys around the world are heartbroken after news of her recent engagement.). Lakey Peterson (USA), a veteran, welcomed the likes of a few rising stars to the top ten: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), Johanne Defay (FRA), and Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW). Carissa Moore (HAW) and known rival, Courtney Conlogue (USA), are ranked first and second respectively, making for a good showdown.
The Triple Crown of Surfing is valued for tradition and bragging rights but also offers a hefty total prize purse of $1,185,000. Twenty-seven of the top thirty-four men of the WSL World Tour have signed up for all three events. Mick Fanning (AUS) and Kelly Slater (USA) will compete in only the Billabong Pipe Masters. Of that prize money, a meagre $10,000 is available for only four of the top-ranked women of surfing. Although they look forward to being a small part of the two-month celebration in Hawaii steeped in tradition, the disparity in earning potential and televised time does not go unnoticed.
The Triple Crown of Surfing Main Events and Earnings Potential Breakdown:
Hawaiian Pro, Haleiwa (November 12 – November 23) – 128 surfers compete for the $250,000 prize purse at Haleiwa.
Vans World Cup of Surfing, Sunset Beach (November 24 – December 6) – 128 surfers compete for the $250,000 prize purse at one of the most challenging waves.
Billabong Pipe Masters, Pipeline (December 8 – December 20) – The final stop on the WSL Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour, a $525,000 prize purse and competing at the world’s best barrel wave are at stake.
The Triple Crown of Surfing Specialty Events and Earnings Potential Breakdown:
The Pipe Masters Invitational – 26 local Pipeline chargers and 6 wildcards compete for a $100,000 cash prize purse and two spots into the Billabong Pipe Masters.
Vans Triple Crown Bonus – A $50,000 cash bonus will be awarded to the top performing surfer across all three events that comprise the series.
Women’s Pipe Specialty Event – This is an invitational for four of the World Surf League’s top ranked women to share the most globally televised pro surfing stage in the world and compete towards a $10,000 prize purse.
The WSL has made great strides, pumping millions into the prize money and providing women several additional stops on tour: Fiji, Lowers, and Honolua Bay. The women now have their very own final stop on tour at the Target Maui Pro in Honolua Bay, Maui, and a televised spotlight. For Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, the number one ranked female surfer on the WSL Championship Tour, it will be thrilling to have the final stop at home. These great accomplishments are paving the way for equality in the sport of surfing.
Nonetheless, as spectators look forward to the thirty-third year of an electrifying tri-party event at one of the most beautiful destinations, submerged heavily in the tradition of surfing’s beginnings, and at some of the most challenging surf breaks in the world, the unsettling facts behind the disparity in the prize purse and separation of events remain. The tradition and long-standing significance of the Triple Crown of Surfing is excellent. The streaming international spotlight needs to illuminate not only the world’s best male surfers, but the changes that must be made to encompass equality for all of the best surfers in the world. As an event watched by a universal audience and overseen by a global governing body (the WSL), the Triple Crown of Surfing should include equality in exposure and performance-based pay. Surfing has always been progressive. However, roots of misogynistic tendencies overwhelm the sport, often doing it a major disservice and ostracizing a fan base of consumers. Tetsuhiko Endo of Inertia pointed out that women represent a sizeable portion of the surf economy. As constituents of the modern day surf culture, women are not proposing misandry or even phylogyny but equality in surfing.