Surfing: Surfing star Bethany Hamilton threatens to boycott World Surf League over new transgender rules

Bethany Hamilton competes at the Billabong Pro Pipeline
Bethany Hamilton competes at the Billabong Pro Pipeline. Photo credit: Getty Images

Inspirational surfer Bethany Hamilton has threatened to boycott the professional world series, if it allows transgender athletes to compete in the women's division.

Following Olympic guidelines, the World Surf League has proposed trans-women can enter, as long as they have transitioned at least 12 months and can prove a low testosterone level, but Hamilton, 32, has posted her protest on social media, claiming to represent other surfers too scored to speak out.

"While I address this issue, I want to be clear that I strive to have love for all mankind, regardless of any differences," she said. "But this concerns me as a professional athlete that has been competing in World Surf League events for the past 15-plus years.

"I feel that I must speak up and stand up for those that feel they cannot say something about this. I think many of the girls currently on tour are not in support of this new rule and feat being ostracised, if they speak up."

Hamilton has become one of the sports most recognised athletes, after losing her left arm to a four-metre tiger shark at the age of 13, but returned to the water for a pro career, as well as spreading her inspirational story through books, movies and public speaking.   

She questions whether any WSL athletes were consulted before the new rules were introduced, and whether hormone levels are an accurate measure of male or female.

"I personally think the best solution would be to create a different division, so that all can have a fair opportunity to showcase their passion and talent," said Hamilton. "It's really hard to imagine what the future of women's surfing will be like in 15-20 years down the road, if we move forward allowing this major change.

"I personally won't be competing or supporting the World Surf League, if this rule remains."

While Hamilton's stance has met with widespread support, some have responded, describing her comments as "transphobic".

"Your video is harmful, it comforts uninformed people excluding and pointing the finger at a minority with arguments that are rooted in misogyny," said one respondent.

"Let's try to be kind and welcoming to folks who have gone through a lifetime of struggle just to be their true selves, and to excel in the sports that they’ve dedicated themselves to," said another.

Last year, Sasha Jane Lowerson became the first transgender athlete to win a women's surfing competition, capturing the Western Australia state title. Three years before, she won the men's division under the name Ryan Egan.