OAN Deven Berryhill
UPDATED 1:22 PM PT – Thursday, February 16, 2023
Inspirational figure and professional surfer Bethany Hamilton spoke out on Instagram regarding a new rule allowing transgender women to compete in professional surfing.
Many remember Bethany Hamilton as the girl who came back to professional surfing after surviving a life-threatening shark attack in 2003. Her inspirational story was portrayed in the 2011 movie “Soul Surfer” starring Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt.
In a two-part video, Hamilton laid out a thorough explanation stating her position and why she does not plan on participating in future World Surf League (WSL) events. The statement by the legendary surfer was in response to the WSL’s February 6th announcement allowing trans women to compete against biological women in future events.
“The World Surf League has officially made the rule that male-bodied individuals known as transgender athletes can officially compete in the women’s division,” said Hamilton.
In lock-step with the International Surfing Association (ISA), the WSL has claimed to be following the International Olympic Committee’s policy allowing transgender athletes to compete with approved hormone levels. The ISA requires trans women athletes seeking to compete in the women’s division to maintain a testosterone level of less than 5 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) for the previous 12 months. According to the ISA website, the ISA has been recognized by the IOC as the “World Governing Authority for Surfing.”
“Is a hormone level an honest and accurate depiction that someone indeed is a male or female? Is it as simple as this?” said Bethany. “Am I just a hormone number? Is it as simple as that?”
Hamilton continued to make her case by questioning the long-term future of professional surfing. She asked why the WSL would allow for “male-bodied dominance” to be a part professional surfing.
Hamilton went on to say that she had spoken with many of the other 17 women surfers on the WSL tour. Hamilton said she believes that she is not the only female surfer in the league who has concerns. “I don’t blame the other athletes for not wanting to speak up” due to the backlash of criticism that will follow.
“Have any of the current surfers in the World Surf League been asked what their thoughts and opinions are on this new rule before it was passed or announced? Should there be a conversation?” Bethany asserted.
Hamilton said she knows she is not the only female surfer in the league who has concerns about men competing against women, knowing they will face criticism for doing so.
“I don’t blame the other athletes for not wanting to speak up,” she says.
She concluded, “I personally think that the best solution would be to create a different division so that all can have a fair opportunity to showcase their passion and talent – and I think it’s really hard to imagine what the future of women’s surfing will be like in 15-20 years down the road if we move forward allowing this major change.”
In 2020, professional surfing debuted as an exhibition sport in the Tokyo Olympics. With the Paris 2024 Olympics in view, some view this announcement by the WSL as pressure by the International Olympic Committee to fall in-step with its policy.