In the sporting world, pay disparity between female and male athletes is nothing new. Perhaps the most well-known of cases is Australia’s own Matildas, who in 2019 won the World Cup and received $4 million in prize money, a figure which was just half of what the male team, the Socceroos, earned for simply qualifying to play in the competition.
This week, Australian surfer Lucy Small took the matter to the stage when accepting her win at the Curly MalJam Pro. At the competition, which was held on Sydney’s northern beaches on Saturday, April 24, Small received $1500 in prize money, a sum that was less than half of what the male winner walked home with (a total of $4000).
Taking to the stage, Small decided to make a splash and call out the organisers for the inequality she faced.
“I will just point out… thank you so much to the sponsors for all the money they put into the event, but I would say that it is a bittersweet victory knowing that our surfing is worth less than half of the men’s prizes,” she told the crowd.
“It costs the same amount to fly here, accommodation costs the same, yet our surfing is worth half as much,” Small continued, adding, “so maybe we could think about that for next time?”
The clip was later shared to her Facebook page, where she wrote: “Sometimes you just gotta be prepared to be disliked in order to get what you want.”
Curl Curl Longboarders Club President Tim Reilly later justified the decision to The Sydney Morning Herald, claiming the only reason female surfers don’t receive the same amount of prize money as the men was because, simply, it’s been that way since the event was founded in 2011.
“I just feel bad for the guys who ran it for the whole day and put hundreds of hours into it,” he told the publication. “She [Small] should have come and seen me, that was an easy thing that could have been fixed.”
Adding insult to injury, club secretary Phil Nicol also told SMH that he saw no problem awarding women less money, claiming organisers did nothing “illegal.”
“This is a moral issue,” he said, adding, “we’ve done nothing illegal.”
Speaking to SMH after the clip went viral, Small said she was unaware that the prize money would be unequal, as per the World Surf League’s guidelines, with the organisation committing to equal prize money in 2018.
“We are just so sick of this happening,” she said. “I am just really tired of putting in so much time and effort and money and investing so much into going to these events… and getting less than half the reward.”
It’s proactive and impressive women like Small who push this narrative forward, and thanks to her actions the club’s committee has said prize money would be made equal across all categories for future events.