Best-selling author weighs in on Bethany Hamilton sparked fire against World Surf League’s new trans-inclusive policy!

"When I hear people debating where trans folks belong in sports, my first thought isn't sports. It's suicide."

I have known Jamie Tworkowski for a decade-adjacent now and don’t think that I’ve ever met a kinder man. The handsome Floridian was, and still is, a ripping surfer who got his professional start in the august role of brand rep for Hurley, if I’m not mistaken, on America’s east coast and worked for years before finding a better calling in helping folk not end their lives prematurely.

To Write Love on Her Arms, which Tworkowski founded in 2006, is a non-profit that seeks “to present hope for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and thoughts of suicide, while also investing in treatment and recovery.” Later, he wrote the best-selling If You Feel Too Much (buy here) and, today, travels the globe speaking on various important issues.

In any case, he took to social media in the aftermath of Bethany Hamilton, and other surf legends, coming out swinging against the World Surf League’s new trans-inclusive policy and presents another side worth pondering.

Without further ado…

Food for thought: There is no crisis when it comes to transgender folks dominating sports. There is however a crisis when it comes to suicide rates among transgender and non-binary individuals. To those saying “Just give them their own division,” as someone else pointed out, “othering” someone is the first step to dehumanizing them. Which brings us back to the actual crisis: Transgender human beings dying by suicide because of the ignorance, judgement, and hate they experience day after day. So my question is this. Which bothers you more: The purely hypothetical crisis that trans folks are coming to take over the women’s tour? Or the possibility that a living breathing transgender human being, hoping for love and acceptance, would read these comments and feel like even more of an outsider? The tour likely won’t change. But if the surfing community would stop with the fear and actually consider a picture bigger than this bullshit culture war, we could not only change but save lives. And to the Christians reading this, I’m pretty sure Jesus was a big fan of love. And love is very interested in things like seeing people want to stay alive.

…and then…

I’ve avoided this platform since last night. Haven’t looked at comments or DMs. I don’t love politics. I don’t enjoy conflict, especially with friends. I don’t enjoy being insulted.

I’m aware that some of my opinions are unpopular in the surfing community. But last night I chose to say something.

I grew up a surfer and spent the first eight years of my career working in the surf industry. I’ve spent the last 16 years working in mental health and suicide prevention. I’ve learned that suicide rates among LGBTQ folks are exponentially higher than the average. I’ve learned that words matter, always but especially when someone is struggling. I’ve learned that kindness and compassion can save a life.

So when I hear people debating where trans folks belong in sports, my first thought isn’t sports. It’s suicide. It’s belonging. It’s wanting people to want to stay alive. It’s wanting people to experience the joy I’ve found in surfing and other parts of life.

Do I think sports should be fair? Yes. Am I an expert in that? No. But also I believe there’s a bigger picture: How can we care for folks who are already marginalized? While we debate, can we remember that we’re talking about human beings? Can we use language that is compassionate and kind?

If you’re a Christian can you try to keep in mind that this means you’re called to love and your faith suggests that every person alive is made in the image of God?

If for you the debate is about women’s rights, are you equally passionate about: A woman’s right to choose to become a mother? A woman’s right to marry another woman? Every woman’s right to seek asylum when fleeing violence and poverty?

None of this is about me being a hero or a saint, or having all the answers. But I want to be someone who cares about people.

And I think that has to mean paying special attention to how we treat those who exist in the margins of society. And I definitely want to live in a world where less people die by suicide.

To sum it all up, I believe there’s a way to have hard conversations where we simultaneously keep in mind that whether we agree or not, the words we choose make an impact on the real lives in the balance. Maybe it’s not only a conversation about where people belong in sports. Maybe it’s also a conversation about the fact that belonging is a powerful thing, the kind of thing that can change and even save a life.

Open Thread: Comment Live, women’s quarterfinals plus of the Billabong Pro Pipeline where pain or damage don’t end the world!

Headed into the salt mines.

Slater (high road) Lee (low one). Photo: WSL
Slater (high road) Lee (low one). Photo: WSL

Surf great Kelly Slater thumbs nose at curmudgeonly rock n roller Tommy Lee, informs ex-gal Pamela Anderson that he “looks forward to watching” her new documentary!

A man for all season.

Pipeline, man. I just now wandered over to Surfline, the World Surf League’s official forecast partner, to see how things were looking and the short answer is “not good.” Today is one of the best days of the dwindling waiting period and features smallish waves and lousy winds. It stays that way, or worse, until the 10th and then, mercifully, this 2023 kick-off contest is put out of its misery.

Now, in case you were wondering, last year’s Pro Pipeline was none other than surf great Kelly Slater. The then-almost-fifty-year-old amazed AARPs around the world with his stunning victory, showing everyone that age is only a number. This year, the now-almost fifty-one-year-old will come up against Yago Dora in Heat 10 of the “bracket round” in conditions that will certainly favor the younger Brazilian though he has already proven himself a winner.

Yes, the 11x World Champion took the highest of roads when it came to ex-girlfriend Pamela Anderson’s freshly released documentary Pamela Anderson: A Love Story. In it, she details her tumultuous life. Of course, her love interests are discussed including Kid Rock, Tommy Lee and the the aforementioned Slater.

Reaction, from them, has been mixed.

Lee, though an intermediary, declared that he “could care less” leaving the public confused as to if he actually would care less or simply leave his care where it is.

Slater, high roading, messaged Anderson’s son Brandon saying, “Congrats to you guys. Look forward to watching. :)”


I, myself, watched the documentary as well and found it both informative and moving. Anderson states she was dating Slater when she married Tommy Lee and was, in fact, supposed to be headed to Florida to visit his family but waylaid to Cancun for an impromptu wedding.

What if, though, Slater x Anderson had instead been written in the stars?

Slater Jr. surfing against Sammy Pupo in Heat 8?

The world will never know.

Ethan Wilson with family. Photo: GoFundMe
Ethan Wilson with family. Photo: GoFundMe

Florida firefighter who died while surfing America’s deadliest beach donates organs in “final act of lifesaving generosity toward others.”

True heroism.

New Smyrna Beach, some hour’s drive northeast of Orlando, has dominated the surfing news cycle of late. Just last week it was named the “deadliest beach in America.” According to Travel Lens, “With an overall danger score of 8.14, New Smyrna Beach had more shark attacks than any other beach at 32. This was more than twice as many as any other US beach.” It also ranked high in “surfing fatalities,” one which tragically befell local firefighter Ethan Wilson.

The 33-year-old was out, mid-week, near the jetty when he suffered what is described by local news as a surfing accident and became unresponsive. He was immediately transferred to an intensive care unit where he died days later, leaving behind his wife and infant son.

All unspeakably sad though he kicked off a champ, his wife releasing a statement reading, “In respect of Ethan’s wishes, he will be taken to surgery today to recover his organs to donate to people in need. In true Ethan fashion, his last act as a physical person of this world will be an act of generosity. The hospital staff has already matched some recipients and Ethan will give those recipients the ability to live a full and healthy life.”

True heroism.

Donate to the family here.

Hamilton and Doz.

World Surf League broadsided by surf legends, including Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Bethany Hamilton and its own North Shore water patrol, loudly denouncing new policy allowing trans-women to compete at highest level!

"Speak your truth! Less than 1% of people think this policy reflects fairness."

The world’s most inspirational surfer Bethany Hamilton opened a Pandora’s Box yesterday when she recorded a piece to camera damning the WSL’s new policy on trans-women competing in the gal’s div at the highest level.

The World Surf League has tentatively opened the door to trans-women competing so long as they’ve been a gal for at least twelve months and their hormone levels are real low, although the WSL said it wouldn’t be doing the testing, each athlete suppling their own supporting documents.

“The WSL is working hard to balance equity and fairness and it’s important for a policy to be in place,” the WSL’s newly anointed Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer told adult learner surfer website The Inertia. “We recognize that the policy may need to evolve over time as we get feedback and see new research in the field.”

Hamilton, who was thirteen when a tiger shark took off her arm in a bite “so clean and painless she noticed the sea had turned red before she realised her arm was gone at the shoulder”, said she was speaking for tour surfers who felt muzzled, agreed with Kelly Slater who called for a trans-only div and said she’d boycott events if it went ahead.

“Speak your truth!” wrote Shane Dorian. “Thank you for being brave enough to stand up for what you believe. Don’t listen to people who hurl the word transphobic at anyone who’s beliefs don’t align perfectly with theirs. These are complicated problems with no clear solution. Regardless, there are many people who love and support the trans community who agree with you on these issues…Less than 1% of people think this policy reflects fairness. Quite the opposite”

Hawaiian legend Kimo Leong, who owns Kanaka Solutions, security for Pipe, the Eddie etc, posted Bethany’s screed with “Let’s hear your Taughts!”

And, the Makaha lifeguard Noland Keaulana, who dramatically abandoned his jetski to save the life of Kala Grace at the Backdoor Shootout a couple of weeks back, posted a simple thumbs down.


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How will the WSL respond to the rumblings of mutiny?

Bated breath etc.