Joel Tudor Spurs Fiery Online Debate Around Inequitable Women’s Pay, Rumor Of Culling Of World Longboard Tour To Single Event
While Joel is known for his off-the-cuff, highly opinionated social media presence, yesterday’s post was a beacon of light for a community long trodded on by the powers that be. If there’s one thing that this man knows how to do, it’s spur public discourse around the longboard culture that he has worked so hard to cultivate over the past 4 decades.
Yo @wsl @jessmileydyer @elo_eriklogan can y’all explain this kind of equality? Not very woke of you to treat the log gals with so much disrespect in regards to pay? It’s kinda clear on your own Instagram which style is more favored by your audience! Urging all log gals , parents & friends to write the @wsl asking why this is still happening….also they are planning on canceling the longboard tour to a one event stop! Hit em up , post about it & make some noise to make things right!! Awoooooooooo!
Yesterday’s Instagram sparked an onslaught of angry cross steppers for two distinct reasons.
- The WSL’s pay disparity between the Women’s Shortboard and Longboard tours
- The rumor that, after a highly successful re-vamp of the World Longboard Tour as helmed by Devon Howard, the WSL is planning on cutting the previously scheduled 3 events back down to a single, winner take all World Title decider.
With the success of Joel and Vans’ Duct Tape Invitationals and the equal pay they implemented for both men and women, it is no surprise that he’s standing on a soapbox and calling out the organization that crowned him World Champion at his beloved Malibu just 6 months ago… While being chaired up the beach by his son Tosh was a self-acknowledged shining moment for not only himself, but longboarding as a whole, Joel has made his message clear: neither regression nor inequitable pay structures will be tolerated.
Let’s break this down point by point, starting with the diminishing of what was previously a 3 stop tour down to 1. Last week we interviewed fellow 3x World Champion Honolua Blomfield for an upcoming Blog Crap interview series titled Log Chats. Fortuitously, we asked her about the current amount of events on tour. Here’s what she had to say:
I’m a believer in there being as many events as possible. It’s not fair to only have 1 or 2 events because anyone can surf a bad contest or have a bad heat, but when you have the overall total of 4 it gives everyone the opportunity to do their best. If there are 4 contests then the best surfer will win. I think there were 2 events during my first title year, 4 the second and then 3 this last year. I didn’t do well at Noosa! Having 2 more events this year gave me the chance to showcase my surfing as a whole. I definitely do not agree with the 1 or 2 event strategy and I don’t think that should decide the World Title, but again, that’s just my opinion.
Seeing as Honolua is only 22 years old and is currently the winningest surfer on the Women’s Longboard Tour, it’s safe to assume that her opinion matters.
The outcry against a single event tour has been widespread, with the likes of Ben Skinner, Chloe Calmon, Victoria Vergara, Kelis Kaleopaa and more posting their own takes echoing the sentiments Joel laid out yesterday.
The question remains: why? Clearly this isn’t a content issue seeing as longboard posts perform incredibly well across the WSL platform, with metrics on par with shortboard clips both in and out of a jersey. The obvious answer, which unfortunately tends to be the driving force behind most human decisions, would be cold hard cash. Understandable? Sure… but there is no doubt that last year’s event at Malibu was the most successful longboard contest of the past decade.
No one is expecting the longboard contests to match the eyeballs recently given to the broadcast of Kelly’s latest Pipe win, but the one factor that the WSL is failing to recognize as an organization is momentum. They finally got it right in both criteria and event structure, meaning that they had made the decision to continue with the same format (even if contests were all held within US borders) this year growth was inevitable. As is the case with most competitive humans, those who failed to take top honors last year would inevitably come back hungrier than before. Improved surfing + proof of concept is a surefire recipe for success, both on paper and in the hearts and minds of those who follow along.
Now onto issue number two as per Joel’s post: inequality in pay amongst the two women’s tours.
Kassia Meador had this to say.
Before I dive in, it should be noted that on the WLT, Men and Women receive equal prize money. The same can be said of the shortboard tour. The WSL has taken a firm and progressive stance on this and that should be recognized, especially seeing that other leagues have done little to combat this. No example is starker than that NFL player Taysom Hill, who last year made more than the entire WNBA combined.
Unfortunately, this isn’t football or basketball or hockey. This is surfing, and many on the WSL’s ‘main’ tour have struggled to make a living despite devoting their lives to competition, which in part the WSL uses as content to keep the ecosystem alive. Post-2008 recession some surfers had to rely on crowdsourced funding to even afford travel to the next contest. While this has improved for the shortboard tour, this has yet to trickle down to longboarding.
I’m not necessarily saying they should be making the SAME amount of money. But have a look at the below equation:
1st Place For Winning a WLT Contest: $10,000
Travel, entry fee, lodging (a generous estimate for domestic competitors for all 3 events): $5,000
Estimated net pay if one were to win all 3 events: $25,000
Average U.S. Median Income: $31,133
This means that if you are a woman at the absolute top of your sport surfing a perfect year and beating all of your competition, you will not make a living wage in the United States under the WSL’s current pay structure.
In terms of what the future holds, one train of thought that’s been circulating: the WSL scales back to one event, minimizing production cost and sinking that extra cheddar into increased prize money… The flip side of that coin? Less events = less exposure on the WSL’s social media accounts (IG 3.9 million) and potentially subdued sponsorship contracts for those surfers lucky enough to have them.
Again, I’m not saying I have the answers, but surely this could be improved upon.
Thank you Joel for constantly pushing the boundaries of this pretty little thing called longboarding. Here’s to hoping we see some sort of substantive change in 2022.