Gender Games: There’s No Debate

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I love this beautiful, strong shot of Crystal Dzigas. In this article she says that “the modeling thing never came natural to me. I am naturally pretty muscular and it does not turn out well in photos. The male surf industry uses surfers in their ads, the female industry uses models.” In my opinion,  this is about as balanced and beautiful as surfing gets.

I just came across an article in Slide Magazine from 2011 that features “some of Hawaii’s best female longboarders.” I was so excited to see a men’s surfing magazine run an article about female surfers outside of the standard one or two page feature on one woman, per issue.

I was also interested to see the interviewer ask about comparing men’s and women’s surfing and it made me wonder what other perspectives surfing women and men had about this issue in particular, especially as it relates to the massive pay gap between male and female surfers.

For me, the pay gap (thus the gap of monetary valuation) stems from the generally accepted idea that because women’s (surfing, soccer, writing, etc, etc.) tends not to be like men’s, it is therefore not as good. We’re completely blinded by our  socially induced preference for stronger, faster, more masculine ways of doing EVERYTHING.
Thus more feminine approaches get overlooked, undervalued and underpaid.

But “what if there were one parameter that clearly provided an advantage in sports, with levels that did not overlap between men and women and could entirely explain why men did better than women in elite sports? Would this substance meet enough criteria to be a valid way of separating men and women on the field, and only on the field? And what should be the threshold for the level of this substance above which female athletes would have all the physical advantages of men and therefore would unfairly compete with other women?……

The reality is that there is a pretty good candidate for such a substance: testosterone.”

(from the New York Times).

Still, we have a sports like tennis where men and women receive equal pay for equal work.
Men undoubtedly hit the ball and move around the court faster than women, but they are paid the same because both the male and female athletes are pushing the boundaries of their version of the sport.
Female surfers may not displace the same amount of water when doing turns, or be able to paddle into waves as large as some ridden by male surfers, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t excelling in other ways (grace, style, etc.) and in ways that are of the highest level for women, considering our unique physical and social circumstances.
Generally speaking, women and men value different experiences of surfing. It’s rare to find women that even want to, or try to do air reverses, compared to men. I don’t think that men are better athletes than women, they’re just different kinds of athletes.

Anyway, this is what some of the best female surfers from Hawaii had to say:

women's vs. women's surfing pay gap
What do YOU think??




  1. That kind of skill, grace and sense of fun is so much more beautiful (and sexy) than any kind of body (“model” or no). Sounds like she finds her muscles to be a bit of a drawback in the Biz, and that’s just a shame. This might be one of my favorite surfing shots ever.

  2. Agreed Mr. Logan MB! It’s what she does that makes her so amazing/sexy, not just how she looks. It’s one of my favorite shots, too. Thanks for chiming in. Hope to see you somewhere on the planet soon…..

  3. Reminds me of Pink Floyd’s “Balanced on the biggest wave, rest your arms it’s an early grave.” And I do agree – one of the most poetic surfing shots I have seen. Now my wall paper. Up close and big makes it even more dynamic. Balanced at the edge of our life space – defying gravity. Poise and grace tanscends beauty… but she just happens to have all three.

  4. I think the pay gap stems from the amount of interest generated in each sport. Male surfing has been publicized a lot longer than female, male surfing is well established in society. that’s where publicity, advertising and ultimately money arises. Comparing men and women’s surfing is like comparing footy and soccer.

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