Author’s note: Last week, Hawaiian surfer Carissa Moore won her fifth world title, defeating Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb in a best-of-three final. After her victory, Moore caught up with On Her Turf about changes she’s seen in surfing since she made her international debut over a decade ago.
When Carissa Moore first showed up on surfing’s Championship Tour in 2010 (then known as the ASP World Tour), women weren’t always set up to succeed.
“When the conditions weren’t very good, they would put the women out,” Moore explained. “It was super unfair.”
Moore, then 18 years old, recalls thinking, “Is this ever going to change?”
Eleven years, five world titles, and one Olympic gold medal later, Moore says the current decision making process is much more fair.
“On a good day, it’s half and half, which is amazing,” she said.
That’s not the only positive change Moore has seen during her pro surfing career. When she won her first world title in 2011, she received between $15,000 and $25,000 for each of her three wins that season.
In comparison, 2011 men’s world champ Kelly Slater won $75,000 each time he stood atop the podium that year.
In the years that followed, surfing’s prize money gap slowly closed. And then, ahead of the 2019 season, the World Surf League (WSL) announced it would award equal prize money to men and women at every WSL event, including the top-tier Championship Tour.
While Moore says she was never as bothered by the disparate prize money as she was the sub-optimal surf conditions – “I just wanted to go out in the jersey and surf,” she explained – she’s grateful for what the change represents.
“We’re definitely capable and we can definitely rise to the occasion when we’re given the platform.”
Some of these changes can be attributed to more women serving in leadership positions across the industry. Moore pointed to two recent hires that she’s especially excited about in Jessi Miley-Dyer and Brooke Ferris. Miley-Dyer was hired as the WSL’s Head of Competition in February, while Brooke Ferris was announced as Rip Curl’s new CEO last month.
“It’s great to see things changing, and the support for women and lifting them up on that level,” Moore said.
Looking ahead, surfing’s 2022 Championship Tour will mark the first “fully integrated” tour, meaning men and women will compete the same number of events, at the same venues, at the same time.
ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: Separate and unequal? These Paralympians want to compete alongside Olympians
Still, some disparities remain, like the fact that half as many women compete on the Championship Tour. Moore said she understands it’s tough to add more competitors to the field when swell windows are already short, but also noted she’s been impressed by the increased depth of the women’s field in recent years.
“There are more and more girls that are worthy of that Championship Tour level,” she said.
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC