Transgender surfing and competition: a topic that has divided surfers worldwide | Illustration: SurferToday

On February 4, 2023, Bethany Hamilton posted a video to her Instagram detailing her thoughts on the World Surf League's (WSL) policy of including transgender women surfers in the women's division of WSL events.

To this day, there is only one transgender woman professional surfer in the world (that has come out, at least), and that is Sasha Jane Lowerson.

According to the policy, transgender women must maintain a testosterone level under 5 nmol/l for at least a year before entering the women's competitive division.

Sasha actually explains a bit about her journey under hormone replacement therapy, telling the public in an interview that her testosterone level was "sometimes a tenth of the women I was competing against."

Sasha also admitted to getting "schooled by some of the best longboarding women in the world," an assertion that pretty much spells out the fact that transgender women surfers do not have this superior biological advantage to cis-gendered women surfers.

Bethany asked her followers in her first Instagram video how including transgender women in cis-gendered women's competition betters the sport of surfing.

Sasha Jane Lowerson: the first transgender surfer to win an official competition | Photo: Surfing WA

Surfing: A Gender-Fluid Sport Ever Since

It is important to remember that Hawaiian culture holds roots in gender fluidity in the history of the Māhū people, excellently explained by Eleisha Lauria in The Gay & Lesbian Review article, "Gender Fluidity in Hawaiian Culture."

We must not forget that it was white Christianity that commandeered surfing in the 1700s.

Before surfing was hijacked by white people, it was a beloved Hawaiian sport, an expression of gender equality and strength amongst native Hawaiians.

I would argue that because surfing was once a gender-fluid sport, allowing transgender women to compete with cis-gendered women in WSL events can only create more unity in the world of surfing.

Bethany Hamilton wrote a children's book titled "Surfing Past Fear," which explores an otter's journey to re-enter the ocean with the help of her friends following an injury.

Isn't Bethany afraid of competing against a transgender woman? Is her fear rational?

Athlete Ally, an organization that seeks to obtain gender equality for all genders (including the gender-non-conforming) in professional sports, has quite a bit of research on the subject of whether or not transgender athletes have a biological advantage over cis-gendered athletes in competition.

If Bethany truly wants to have an intelligent debate, she might want to take a look at what Athlete Ally has compiled.

You can view Athlete Ally's findings at cces.ca/transgender-women-athletes-and-elite-sport-scientific-review.

Sasha Lowerson: the winner of the 2022 Surfing WA Longboard and Logger Open Women State Championships | Photo: Surfing WA

A Free America

I provided this information from Athlete Ally because a 2019 study was posted in the comments section of one of Bethany's Instagram posts.

This study was posted in an attempt to rationalize excluding transgender women from cis-gendered women's surfing competitions.

That 2019 study did not involve transgender athletes; it only involved average/ordinary transgender people.

Surely in a scientific discussion as to whether transgender women belong in cis-gender women's sporting competitions, actual transgender athletes must be studied.

Otherwise, how can scientific inferences be made that are sound and non-biased?

As America inches closer and closer to another election year, voters must decide whether or not they will be swindled by Republicans' attempts to brainwash the right into thinking that the transgender population is somehow a grave threat to American society.

From bathroom bills to bills deferring transgender athletes to compete in sports based on their biological gender, it is increasingly clear that Republicans are only concerned about creating one kind of America, the kind in which transgender people do not exist.

During the Conservative Political Action Conference a few weeks back, Michael Knowles said, "Transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely."

Many Republicans think that being transgender is simply a mental health issue that must be addressed, and that is quite troubling because it implies that a transgender person is problematic somehow.

In plain terms, what Michael Knowles said is a call for violence against the transgender community.

There is no place for white nationalism in the United States of America, and there is certainly no place for it out on the waves.


Words by Anjali Ajmani | Copywriter and Author at Surf Equity

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