Whether you're an avid surf fan or all of your surfing knowledge comes from watching Blue Crush, the name Stephanie Gilmore should mean something to you. After winning her seventh world championship in late November, she is now tied for the best female surfer of all time with Layne Beachley, a feat that means so much more now than it did just a year ago after the World Surf League's (WSL) recent announcement.
In Septmeber, the WSL announced that they were going to award equal prize money to men and women starting in 2019, a movement Gilmore has since become the face and voice for. For contrast, Gilmore recalled a time in 2007 at the beginning of her career when she won the first place prize of $10,000 while her male counterpart received $50,000, all while surfing the same waves.
Admittedly "reserved," Gilmore has suddenly been thrust into the global spotlight as a beacon of hope for equality in the realm of sports — a realm that has been dragging its feet toward equal pay for years.
"It's really been this year that I've understood the power of using world titles and using championships and wins and these moments as a platform to be something greater than just yourself," Gilmore said. "And I'm so proud to be a surfer of course, but so proud to be part of something that is setting the standard for not just athletes but for workplaces all around the world."
As the surfing world steps onto the global stage with its equal pay announcement, a dark shadow is cast on more traditionally popular sports, like soccer, that still don't award players equal pay. Why has surfing been the sport to finally break the mold? Gilmore believes the answer lies in the sport's history.
"Surfing is a young sport. We don’t have these 100-year-old traditions that we need to stick to, so we can kind of blaze our own path," Gilmore said. "But I also think surfing still has that history of the subculture, like we’re the rebels. We’re willing to go against the grain and we’re willing to take risks."
Humble and gracious, Gilmore takes her new role as a global ambassador for equality in stride, thankful to have a voice that can inspire change and hope.
"I just love the idea of inspiring so many other women and encouraging them that this hard work that they’re doing, this movement that we’re all in together, it will pay off in the end," Gilmore said. "Just keep pushing for it."