Bethany Hamilton says she will boycott the World Surf League because of her transgender policy
Pro surfer Bethany Hamilton announced on Sunday that she will be boycotting the World Surf League over the endorsement of the International Surfing Association’s transgender policy.
The 32-year-old surfer who rose to fame as a teenager when a shark attack claimed her left arm does not support transgender women being eligible to compete in the WSL women’s circuits. She made her announcement via an Instagram video while questioning the league’s policy of taking testosterone levels into account for eligibility.
“Is a hormone level a fair and accurate representation that someone is indeed a man or a woman?” Hamilton asked between a series of questions. “Is it as simple as this?”
She concluded her video by announcing her boycott.
“Personally, I will not participate in the World Surf League or support the World Surf League if this rule continues,” said Hamilton.
There are currently no openly transgender athletes competing in the WSL.
The WSL responded on Monday with a statement explaining the rules that intend to align with those in Olympic competition.
“As an Olympic sport, and with the ambition to include all WSL disciplines in the Olympic Games, the WSL has adopted the International Surfing Association (ISA) policy on transgender participation,” the statement read. …”
“The WSL is working to strike a balance between fairness and fairness, and we will continue to review the policy in the coming months and years as more research, information and feedback becomes available.”
The WSL cites the ISA’s policy that considers eligible testosterone levels over a 12-month period as a reason to compete in a women’s event:
“An athlete assigned male at birth, who identifies as a female and has female/female on her passport or national ID card, is eligible to compete in a male event, or as a male in a mixed event, if she has not met the requirements to participate in a women’s event (such as continuously maintaining a testosterone level below 5 nmol/L for the previous 12 months)
Hamilton challenged the ISA’s testosterone standard in her video.
“How did whoever decided these hormone rules come to the conclusion that 12 months of testosterone testing makes it a fair and legal switch?” asked Hamilton.
The topic of transgender athletes competing in sports — particularly transgender women competing in women’s events — has become a flashpoint in American and international sports and politics. Several US states with Republican-controlled leadership have proposed or passed bans on transgender athletes competing at the high school or collegiate level, often citing equality on the playing field. Opponents of the bills characterize them as anti-LGBTQ legislation.
Hamilton is a devout Christian who has cited her faith as an inspiration for her recovery from the shark attack she experienced at the age of 13. Since her attack, she has continued her career as a professional surfer, including a long-term sponsorship deal with Rip Curl.
According to her WSL biography, Hamilton has competed in the WSL since 2008, most recently during the 2022 season, where she placed 20th on the Women’s Championship Tour. Hamilton said in her video that she would like to see the WSL create a section specifically for transgender athletes.
“Personally, I think the best solution would be to create another division so that everyone has a fair chance to show their passion and talent,” said Hamilton.
According to industry publication The Intertia, Sarah Jane Lowerson became the first openly transgender surfer to compete in 2022 and win an established surfing competition. Lowerson spoke about her experience after winning last May at the West Coast Suspensions Longboard & Logger State Championships in Australia.
“I’ve been surfing since I was a little boy, I was a good junior surfer, I was surfing against grown men when I was 14 and won,” Lowerson told Newsweek. “I knew from a very young age that I wasn’t a normal kid. For the best part of it [my life]I thought [Sasha] could never live, I had to put her in a box. That is something many girls experience.
“About every two years I would like to commit suicide and I did the right thing. I was really shaken up in  then I thought ‘What are you doing? You’re living a lie.’”