Should WSL atone for Pro Surfing's historical sexism?
Shot me old pal Pauline Menczer a text the other morning to congratulate her for the successful GoFundMe campaign following the premiere of the movie she stars in, Girls Can’t Surf.
Me and Pauline go way back grafting a semi-honest living working as sham contractors for one of Byron Bay’s biggest shuttle bus services. Pretty hectic gig. Running a too-tight schedule rounding up tourists in Bangkok-style traffic and getting them to the steel bird on time so they could resume normal life in the city.
Menczer is one of God’s great hustlers, a tough-as-teak old-school Bondi street urchin who does not take a backward step, for anybody. Tales of her various confrontations in the surf and on the street are legendary: getting spat on in the surf, screaming matches on the streets, standing up to crooked bosses. Menczer can scrap.
As the world’s grittiest surfing champion Pauline was also the victim of maybe world sports’ most brutal and blatant sexism. A world champ who could not raise a dime in sponsorship, who received a trophy that would not make the grade for the second-hand shop at the dump. Lesbian, when that was taboo, lacking the physical accouterments that were classically assumed to stimulate the desire of a presumed male audience and thus moreorless discarded by the companies that largely funded the sport.
Bad old days.
A clear historical wrong, yes?
Things are very different now, of course.
Equal prize money thanks to Sophie G and Natasha Ziff.
Dual World Champ and one-time highest paid surfer on Earth, Tyler Wright, plies her trade as an openly gay athlete and basks in nothing but full-throated support from her sponsors and employer. That being the WSL, one of the most fiercely progressive organisations on Earth.
Most likely, in the near future a transgender athlete will strut the stage and will be likewise welcomed into the warm bosom of Pro Surfing.
WSL has been shameless in its cultural appropriation of the pro surfing history of the organisations which preceded it. Question: if it is going to claim the good, should it also own the bad?
Redress the wrongs and make reparations for sexist blunders like Pauline’s busted trophy and lack of financial support?
Oh, I know, slippery, slippery slope.
Ziff can’t be expected to stick his hand in his pocket to make good a World Champ who got so royally shafted by the sport she loved so had to drive buses for daily bread. Didn’t get enough to get the coastal real estate that any pro who gets within cooee of the CT now considers a birthright.
Still, even acknowledging the sexist pig managers and the sexist pig pros and the sexist pig contest organisers were no fault of Ziff or any of the revolving door CEO’s of the WSL they couldn’t pitch in and raise the 25K for the GoFundMe?
You claim ownership of every facet of the history of the sport and then let one of the true legends still alive dangle in the breeze with their cap in hand?
A bad look, I think.
Menczer herself has referenced other sports that provide more support to former stars fallen on hard times, in this case the “Men of League” program run by the governing body of Rugby League in Australia, the NRL.
Very low hanging fruit for the WSL if they wanted an easy win to generate real goodwill amongst former pros and the great unwashed.
Off the top of my head I could think of a few former stars who could very much benefit from a little hand up, and so could you.
As for the greater issue of a #Metoo style reckoning for the historical enterprise of pro surfing many questions remain.
A former women’s CT pro backgrounded me for the story but declined to be named.
According to her, and if even half of what she said is true, there are very many skeletons rattling around in very man closets.
Very many instances where consent between those with stars in their eyes and the gatekeepers with access to money and career paths were, lets say, less than enthusiastic.
Different times of course.
In the current climate maybe now some nervous moments in the dead of night for those who took advantage and wonder if the axe of justice will fall.
Very interesting times.