A surfing legend is at odds with her sport over its transgender policy


Bethany Hamilton, one of the most well-known and popular professional surfers, said she would boycott World Surf League events if the organization moves forward with a policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in the women’s division.

The WSL recently said it would adopt the International Surfing Association’s policy, which requires trans athletes seeking to compete in the women’s division to maintain a certain testosterone level for at least 12 months.

“Is a hormone level an honest and accurate depiction that someone indeed is a male or female? Is it as simple as this?” Hamilton, who first received widespread recognition after she lost her left arm to a 2003 shark attack and has competed in the WSL for more than 15 years, asked in a video posted on Instagram this week. “Who is pushing for this huge change? How did whoever decided these hormone rules come to the conclusion that 12 months of testing testosterone make it a fair and legal switch?”

The WSL said in a statement that its policy follows Olympic guidelines and that it is “working to balance equity and fairness, and we will continue to evaluate the policy in the months and years ahead as more research, information, and feedback are available.”

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Hamilton advocates the creation of a “different division so all can showcase their passion and talent” and acknowledged that there may not be “a solution that will please everyone. There are different world views and that is part of life. I may not have the perfect answer, but I do feel the way I do and will continue to stand firm in what I shared.”

Hamilton, who turns 33 Wednesday, has become an advocate for differently abled athletes after losing her arm and is a former national champion. In addition to her surfing career, she is an author and a mentor on her Christian faith, healing, health and relationships.

“I strive to have love for all of mankind, regardless of any differences,” she said, adding that she wants to use her platform as a highly visible and popular surfer to speak for those who might fear being “ostracized” if they speak out. “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? Should there be a conversation?”

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Hamilton has previously spoken about transgender policy in running and swimming. “I think it’s really hard to imagine what the future of women’s surfing will be like in 15 to 20 years down the road if we move forward allowing this major change,” she said.

“My hope is that if I ever had a daughter who is competing in surfing or any sport, and also for all the aspiring young generation of women, to have a bright and promising opportunity in her ambition to be the best of the best women in her sport.”

Her comments were greeted with both positive and negative responses, and she added a video Tuesday in which she said she “knew the hammer of mean and cruel and harshness would be thrown down on me for not going with the flow, for having a different opinion, for being open and sharing my questions, thoughts and my opinion on the new rules.”

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