International Surfing Association: the new transgender policy applies to all ISA competitions | Photo: Reed/ISA

The International Surfing Association (ISA) released its official transgender policy for surfers and surfing events.

The governing body for the sport of surfing announced its complete list of eligibility-by-gender rules that will apply to all competitions.

The ISA transgender policy was developed by the organization's medical commission and may be subject to annual reevaluations as more feedback, information, and research becomes available.

The five main guidelines were determined based on the principles of equality of opportunity and fairness.

The ISA is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The following set of rules may be triggered whenever doubts regarding the eligibility of surfers arise in the following cases:

  • Gender identification;
  • Sex-reassignment;
  • Hyperandrogenism;
  • Transgender;
  • Differences of Sexual Development (DSD);

Surfing: the move to a gender-diverse sport in underway | Photo: Reed/ISA

Transgender Rules in Competition

The five transgender policies that apply to all ISA competitive events are as follows:

    1. A surfer assigned male at birth - and/or - who identifies as a man and has man/male on his national identity card or passport is eligible to compete in a men's event or as a man in a mixed event;
    2. A surfer assigned female at birth - and/or - who identifies as a woman and has woman/female on her national identity card or passport is eligible to compete in a woman's event or as a woman in a mixed event;
    3. A surfer assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman and has woman/female on her national identity card or passport is eligible to compete in a men's event or as a man in a mixed event if she has not met the requirements to compete in a woman's event (such as maintaining testosterone level less than 5 nmol/l continuously for the previous 12 months);
    4. A surfer assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman and has man/male or "other" or "X" on their national identity card or passport is eligible to compete in a men's event or as a man in a mixed event;
    5. In order to compete in a woman's event or as a woman in a mixed event, where either:
  • A surfer who was assigned male at birth and whose gender has changed and identifies as a woman - and/or has woman/female, "other" or "X" - on her national identity card or passport;

or

  • The athlete has otherwise been required by the executive committee and/or medical commission to establish eligibility to compete in a women's event;

The athlete must satisfy the ISA medical commission that her serum testosterone concentration has been less than 5 nmol/L continuously for the previous 12 months and meets any other requirements reasonably set by the executive committee and/or medical commission.

Work to Do

The first version of the International Surfing Association transgender policy does not yet address a few critical topics, including:

  • The athlete's choice of uniform/swimwear;
  • The use of changing and bathroom facilities that best reflects the athlete's gender identity;
  • The integration and rules for non-binary surfers in competition;

The ISA runs the World Surfing Games, the World Junior Surfing Championship, the World Para Surfing Championship, and the World SUP and Paddleboard Championship every year.

Surfing Australia was one of the first surf-related governing bodies to adopt a policy to include gender-diverse and transgender people in their activities.

As of November 2022, the World Surf League (WSL) is yet to release a set of gender-inclusive guidelines that apply to the professional surfing circuit.

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