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Stephanie Gilmore on Gender Equality in Surfing: “Build It and They Will Come”

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In September 2018, the World Surf League proudly announced that it would be awarding equal prize money to male and female surfers at all of its events moving forward. A few months later, Stephanie Gilmore earned her seventh World Title in the sport, tying her with Layne Beachley for the most women’s World Titles ever. Given her iconic status in the sport at the time of the equal pay announcement, she became a prominent face in the fight for pay equity.

Though Gilmore had been vocally calling for this change, she deflects ample credit to her predecessors like Beachley who fought for years for the right to compete against an entrenched sexism in surfing culture.

In a recent conversation on the Just Women’s Sports podcast with host Kelley O’Hara, who herself knows something about the fight for equal pay, Gilmore explains why she’s so proud of her “rebel” sport while discussing how she hopes to continue the fight.

When Gilmore exploded onto the pro surf scene in 2007, winning the World Title her rookie season, prize money was still glaringly off-kilter. It was typical for her to earn $10K for first place in a single contest while her male counterpart earned $40-$50K. Even in 2018, just months before the WSL’s equal prize money announcement, Gilmore earned $65K for first place at the Rip Curl Pro while the male winner got $100K.

When pay equity in sport started gaining mainstream coverage in the late 2010s, it might have been tempting for surfing to stay in the margins as an alternative sport. One reason that didn’t happen is because their podium celebrations made them an easy target, with winners holding up large checks announcing exactly how much they each earned. And at junior surf events, this practice includes a photo op of the male and female winners standing shoulder to shoulder holding their giant (and lopsided) award checks. Proponents of equal pay helped one such image go viral:

Gilmore has an album’s worth of photos just like this. But in the zeitgeist of 2018, this blatant display of gendered pay disparity didn’t sit well with the public. (If only such outcry was customary practice across the world of sports.)

There are those in the surfing community who think the WSL’s equal prize money announcement was an opportunistic reaction to outside pressure, but Gilmore is more generous in her assessment. She credits the relatively new owners of the WSL with having a progressive vision for the sport and points out that they could’ve easily limited the equal prize money requirement to its top-level events where media attention is primarily focused. This is the current status in tennis, for example: only the four Grand Slams offer equal prize money. In contrast, the WSL has applied the new requirement to all events from top to bottom.

Gilmore points out it’s the lower level events where it has the biggest impact, as female surfers are scraping by to break into the scene and don’t have sponsorship deals yet.

“As a surfer that makes me so proud,” she tells O’Hara, “It’s like, wow, you guys believe in us.”

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ED SLOANE/GETTY IMAGES

What matters even more to Gilmore than equal prize money is equal access to good conditions. For most of her career, it’s been common practice for the men’s heats to get priority when conditions were peak. If the weather shifted and the waves weren’t as ideal, they would often switch and have the women go out. She says things are different now. The women get equal priority. And the (not so shocking) result? The women are shredding.

“When the waves are good and the girls are ripping, everyone’s like, ‘Oh my god!’” she vents to O’Hara, “It’s like, we surf like that. We’ve just never had the chance.”

 For Gilmore, these changes send a valuable message to surfers, fans, and the world at large. It’s a message that says we respect you and we believe in you. It’s about investing on the front end to give the women the best opportunity to succeed and then getting a return on your investment down the line.

 “Build it and they will come,” she affirms to a well-aware O’Hara. It’s an adage ringing true in women’s sports everywhere, as we’ve seen record breaking viewership and consumer demand throughout 2020 as women’s sports get better airtime and promotion dollars.

Moving forward, Gilmore is excited to be a leader in growing the sport she loves.

“I really love showing people female surfing,” she tells O’Hara, “how beautiful it is and how inspiring female athletes are.” Her gratitude for the path her predecessors paved has been transformed into motivation to do the same for the next generation.

Her sole mission now: “To take women’s surfing to new heights.”

Listen to Stephanie Gilmore’s full conversation with Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast here.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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