Bethany Hamilton boycotting Women’s Surf League new trans-inclusive policy


Mark Rightmire

World Surf League sets policy allowing trans women surfers to compete; Bethany Hamilton says won’t compete.

Xamara Aleman, News Editor

Bethany Hamilton, who is well-known for her memoir “Soul Surfer,” announced on her Instagram story that she does not intend on competing in the World Surf League (WSL) events after a change in policy that allow transgender women to compete in the women’s event. 


The WSL requires trans athletes seeking to compete in the women’s divisions to have a testosterone level of fewer than five nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) for 12 months, according to the International Surfing Association (ISA). 


But like Hamilton said, “Is a hormone level an honest and accurate depiction that someone is indeed a male or female?” 


Recent studies show that male-bodied individuals biologically have more of a competitive advantage than biological women. It’s not fair for the women’s competitors who have been competing for their spots their whole lives. We don’t see female-bodied individuals competing at the competitive level in the male division, so why should it be allowed for women? 


These new major changes to women’s sports bring concern to the future of the new generation of rising athletes. It would be beneficial to create a separate division as they did with men’s and women’s sports. This would give everyone a fair opportunity to showcase what they are truly passionate about, which was one of the points Hamilton talked about in her video. The only issue is about 1.3M adults identify as transgender and not many compete at the competitive level in sports, making it almost impossible to create a new division since they only make up a small part of the population.  


The WSL should have discussed with current competitors and women on tour with the organization about the trans-inclusive policy before enacting their final decision. Hamilton expressed that she felt the need to speak up because many of the women on tour fear being ostracized if they speak up. The topic of the transgender community can spark controversy, especially when it comes to inclusivity in sports. 


Recently Riley Gaines, ex-University of Kentucky women swimmer, spoke about her experience competing against Lia Tomas, who is a male-bodied individual, in the NCAA swimming championship. They tied for the overall but there was only one trophy, and Tomas took it home for her school, the University of Pennsylvania, where she used to compete for the men’s team. 


Competitors who have competed in the men’s division competitively before transitioning should not be allowed to compete in the women’s division. That is a huge problem because it shows “male dominance” in women’s sports and it is not common to see women-bodied individuals competing in the male divisions. 


The future of women’s sports with the new trans-inclusive policy is at risk because hormone level is not an accurate depiction of what makes someone a man or woman. There should be either a separate division for male and women-bodied individuals or heavily strict requirements to compete in the women’s division at the competitive level. Everyone should be able to have a fair shot to show off what they have been working for their entire lives, not get their opportunity taken away because of this new policy, making athletes accommodate someone else’s needs.