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Tipsheet

‘Soul Surfer’ Comes Out Against Policy Allowing Male-Bodied Athletes in Women’s Surf Competitions

On Saturday, world-renowned surfer Bethany Hamilton came out against the World Surf League’s new policy that allows biological male athletes who identify as women to compete against females in surf competitions. 

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The guidelines implemented by the World Surf League allow transgender athletes to compete in the women’s events if they maintain a testosterone level of less than 5 nanomoles per liter continuously for the previous 12 months before an event.

“The WSL is working hard to balance equity and fairness and it’s important for a policy to be in place,” WSL Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer told surfing publican The Inertia. “We recognize that the policy may need to evolve over time as we get feedback and see new research in the field.”

In an Instagram video, Hamilton came out against the change and pointed out that men who claim to be transgender are dominating other women’s sports.

“Today I want to address the news that the World Surf League has officially made the rule that male-bodied individuals known as transgender athletes can officially compete in the women’s division,” Hamilton, 32, opened the video by saying, before adding that the WSL claims it is following Olympic guidelines. 

“This concerns me as a professional athlete that has been competing in the World Surf League events for the past 15+ years, and I feel that I must speak up and stand up for those in position that may feel that they cannot say something about this,” she said. “I personally won’t be competing in or supporting the World Surf League if this rule remains.” 

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“I think many of the girls currently on tour are not in support with this new rule and they fear of being ostracized if they speak up,” she continued. “So, here I go. Questions I have that I want to consider with you. How is this rule playing out in other sports, like swimming, running, MMA? Have any of the current surfers in the World Surf League been asked what their thoughts and opinions are on this new rule before it was passed or announced?....Is a hormone level an honest and accurate depiction of that someone indeed is a male or female?...How did whoever decided these hormone rules come to the conclusion that 12 months of testing testosterone make it a fair and legal switch?”

Hamilton added that there’s no indication that “converted women,” which are women transitioning to live as men, are competing in men’s surfing divisions.

“I personally think that the best solution would be to create a different division so that all can have a fair opportunity to showcase their passion and talent,” she concluded. “We are seeing glimpses of male-bodied dominance in women’s sports like running, swimming, and others.”

Hamilton, who lives in Hawaii, is a mother to three children. She grew up on the island of Kauaʻi and began competitive surfing at age 8. In 2003, when Hamilton was 13, she lost her left arm while surfing when she was attacked by a tiger shark. She resumed surfing after the shark attack and went on to win a national title. The 2011 movie “Soul Surfer” is based on Hamilton’s life before and shortly after the attack. 

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Last week, Townhall interviewed several female athletes on National Girls and Women in Sports Day who are pushing back against policies allowing male-bodied athletes in women’s sports. One athlete, Riley Gaines, competed against Will “Lia” Thomas at the NCAA swimming championships last year and tied. Thomas, a biological male, had competed on the men’s team at University of Pennsylvania for three years before joining the women’s team and crushing the competition.

“If this continues, it’s a slippery slope. It’s truly only a matter of time before one transgender athlete winning a national title in the women’s category becomes three and five and 10 and so on,” Gaines told Townhall. “I think truthfully it will become…the integrity of women’s sports will be lost.”

Last June, Cynthia Monteleone, a world champion track athlete, spoke to Townhall in Washington, D.C. about the future of Title IX now that the Biden administration wants to amend the legislation to allow “sex” to include “gender identity.” Monteleone, who, like Hamilton, is from Hawaii, competed against a biological male in a women’s race in Spain in 2018.

"I have firsthand knowledge of what it feels like to line up next to a male-bodied athlete," Monteleone told Townhall. "I'm also a coach to young athletes and Olympians. And for my young athletes, it's really important that when I teach them lessons like 'hard work pays off' that that rings true...that lesson falls apart when they have to line up next to someone who, quite literally, can be a mediocre athlete and still win."

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In her remarks, Monteleone shared that she believed that having an “open” category for transgender athletes could preserve fairness in women’s sports. 

"I want everybody to be able to participate in sports. There are so many valuable lessons in sports," she said. "So, yea, let's include everybody. But that doesn't mean excluding females from their opportunities. I'm not the policymaker, but it seems to make the most sense to me to have an open category," she added, and clarified that it is not her belief that there are more than two genders. 

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