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The World Surf League Honors the Power of Women

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
As the athletes take to the water in Portugal, the WSL surfers each will honor their favorite women with custom jerseys.

The surfing world is locked in on Peniche, Portugal. There, the World Surf League kicks off the third event of its 2023 season with the MEO Rip Curl Portugal Pro on Thursday. As the best surfers chase one of the world’s most coveted breaks, the athletes will honor their favorite women with customized jerseys.

The WSL homage to women in sports is not a hollow one. The WSL is the first US-based sports league to secure equitable pay for women on the pro-tour circuit.

As greats including Carissa Moore and Kelly Slater pull out of their best barrels at this week’s competition, they will give flowers to female athletes from across the globe.

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Dating back to 2019, the WSL has ensured equal pay for men and women for all tour events, spanning the globe’s best waves from Pipeline to Peniche. In addition, the league is committed to growing the sport among the next generation and offers surf clinics and training in the communities where they hold circuit events annually.

“We take pride in our efforts to promote equality and inclusion, not only as a global organization but also as a sport and community,” said Erik Logan, WSL CEO. “Our commitment to equal prize money and combined Tour schedules is a holistic approach that propels our sport forward and sends a strong message to up-and-coming surfers worldwide. As a league, we strive to set an example for other sports and act as a channel for ongoing transformation.”

In its continual growth, the WSL hopes to serve as an exemplar for other sports leagues and figures across the globe.

Lakey Peterson’s International Women’s Day Jersey prior to the World Surf League MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal on Wednesday. (Thiago Diz/World Surf League)

For the kickoff of the MEO Rip Curl Portugal Pro, each athlete selected their favorite woman to honor. From the Williams sisters to surfers’ very own mothers, it was a classic case of game-recognizing-game amid an overhead break. A select number of the selections include:

  • Kelly Slater (USA), Margo Oberg, Surfing Champion (1968, 1977, 1980, 1981): “I picked Margo Oberg because she was a queen of surfing early on. When I was a little kid I used to see her in the magazines and vote for her in the surfer poll awards. I wanted to honor and celebrate her as one of the pioneers of our sport who paved the way.”
  • Tyler Wright (AUS), Sam Kerr: “I chose Sam Kerr. She is an incredible Australian soccer player. Plays for Matildas and Chelsea overseas. The World Cup is coming up in Australia, so it’s a big year; the Matildas have been doing an incredible job. I think Sam is an inspiring athlete, sets an incredible standard, and captains Australia really well.”
  • Lakey Peterson (USA), Venus Williams: “I have always been a really big fan of tennis. Both Venus and Serena Williams are huge inspirations for me. I didn’t want to choose between the both of them, so I chose just WILLIAMS to be on the back of my jersey in wanting to represent both Venus and Serena. I think they are two women who have busted down the doors of women’s sporting areas, and proven what can be done as females on the court. They are great representations off the court too. I am honestly just a massive fan of the Williams sisters, grew up watching them on tv, and I grew up playing tennis, so that is who I decided to represent on my jersey this year for International Women’s Day.”
  • John John Florence (HAW), Alex Florence: “I chose my mom, just because she has been a huge inspiration for my brothers and I, and she is an amazing surfer. She still goes out and surfs Pipe today. There are a lot of sessions when I wouldn’t have gone out there if she hadn’t paddled out first, so thanks mom!”
  • Kolohe Andino (USA), Sydney McLaughlin: “Sydney is such an inspiration. To achieve so much at her age, and to carry herself the way she does, I look up to her in a lot of ways. She set a record and won Gold at the 2020 Olympics. Anyone can look up to her, but as an athlete, I truly see her as an example on how to achieve your goals. I am proud to wear her name on my jersey for International Women’s Day.”
  • Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Beatriz Haddad Maia: “To see a Brazilian woman dominating in Tennis is really exciting. Especially the fact that she and my uncle have hit balls together, and she supports me through Instagram, and I support her. It’s really cool to have that comradely in between sports and know you have another sports person support you from a distance.”

The MEO Rip Curl Portugal Pro runs through Thursday, March 16.

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About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel ‘fit and a playlist for all occasions.