Surf competition accused of 'sexism' over prize money

Ballito Pro winners Rio Waida and Zoe Steyn Image copyright The Ballito Pro
Image caption Rio Waida (left) won twice as much as Zoe Steyn

Organisers of a junior surf competition in South Africa have been accused of sexism after discrepancies in the prize money awarded to the male and female winners.

Rio Waida and Zoe Steyn claimed first place in the boys' and girls' 2018 Billabong Junior Series Ballito Pro event on Sunday.

A photograph of the pair posing with their winners' cheques has drawn waves of criticism online, as Rio is shown to have won double Zoe's prize.

The photograph, which was posted to the competition's Facebook page, has been shared widely - and sparked discussion about gender equality.

"I am outraged," wrote Facebook user Robyn Simpson. "I was there and watched the whole day. These girls shred just as hard as any boy."

"Did the girls surf a different ocean that was easier we don't know about?" another, Eloise Montgomery-Male, asked the organisers.

Others wondered if the competition's sponsor, Australian surfing brand Billabong, was offering 50% discounts to women buying their products.

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Responding to the criticism, the event organisers and Billabong representatives said they had "noted the concerns raised" but that the sport's governing body, the World Surf League (WSL), determined the prize money.

"The Ballito Pro maintains its stance as a pro-gender equality competition, which is evident from the ongoing development of the women's series year-on-year," said festival organisers.

"Based on this commitment to equality, we are meeting with all relevant stakeholders to discuss how any potential discrepancies can be resolved going forward.

"The WSL implements certain criteria to determine surf ratings and prize money, and we have formally requested a detailed outline of this process for future discussion."

The WSL had not responded to a request to comment by the time of publication but speaking to ABC, spokesperson Will Hayden-Smith said prize money was partly determined by the number of entrants.

"[The photo] highlights an issue but it's a very complicated one," he said.

"Men get double the prize money only because there are double the competitors."