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Editorial: Give women one more boost

August 11, 2010

Just double it once more, and we'll call it a day.

When the festivities died down at this year's U.S. Open of Surfing, that was the thought that lingered in our minds.

For the second straight year, the world-famous surfing competition proved to be a showcase for Surf City, USA, and also a showcase for its homegrown talent — local Brett Simpson, who won the world-record $100,000 purse for the men's title in 2009, pulled off a repeat last weekend.

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For the second straight year, too, the prize for the women's champion more than doubled in the course of the event. The top prize last year was originally slated to be a paltry $4,500 — less than 1/20th what the male champion earned — before organizers raised it to $10,000. This year, organizers doubled it to $20,000 before the Open, only to boost it to $50,000 before the women's final. We applaud this effort to make the event more fair to women, who are not only skilled athletes, but are a boon to sponsors.

Clearly, there's a trend of the last two years of doubling — or more than doubling — what the female champion makes. So our recommendation for next year is this: Double it one more time to $100,000, where the men's prize has held steady, and prepare for deafening applause.

The organizers have articulated reasons why the men's prize is much higher than the women's, and they're understandable enough. For one thing, more men than women compete in the Open, and in surfing as a whole worldwide. For another, male surfers tend to be more lucrative for sponsors, at least historically.

We're not accusing the Open's sponsors of sexism. Given the nature of the industry, they may be raising the bar for women as much as they can at the moment. But since they have the power to set a precedent, we urge them to follow their momentum from the last 12 months and make the ultimate leap next year.

Few who watched last weekend's final heats would likely deny that the two winners deserve the same amount of prestige. And with the next generation of Carissa Moores preparing to hit the waves, it's as good a time as any to let them know that the playing field is level.

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While Simpson was making headlines on the waves last week, another Huntington Beach surf legend had his own shining moment a few yards away from the beach.

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