The U.S. Open of Surfing has more than doubled its first-place women's prize from $20,000 to $50,000, in what organizers believe is the largest top prize ever given in women's surfing.
Executives from Nike, the event's sponsor, announced the increase during Monday's women's heat by the Huntington Beach Pier. Johanna Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Open, said organizers raised the purse to help reduce the disparity between men's and women's prizes. In last year's Open, the top male surfer earned 10 times more than the top female surfer, while the prizes this year were originally slated to be $100,000 and $20,000, respectively.
"The motivation was to help elevate the status of women's surfing," Phillips said. "It's the only women's WQS [World Qualifying Series] event in North America, so we're really trying to help elevate it."
She added that the announcement Monday had been met with loud applause.
"As far as the women surfers, they're all very excited about it," she said.