Should the girls win the same as the guys?
Last weekends event on Maui sparked a bit of attention in the stand up paddling scene, when the organisers heavily publicised the fact that there was equal prize money awarded to the men and women. So what's all the fuss about?
Ever since prize money has been handed out for winning sporting events, the most money has been awarded to the mens divisions, no matter the circumstances of the actual competition. Over the last 5 years however, the number of equal prize money events have been growing, none more famous that the Tennis Grand Slam events, all of which now award equal prize money to men and women, despite the fact that the competition between the genders is somewhat different.
Here's the argument...
Using Tennis as an example (where men play 5 sets and women play 3 sets), it could be said that the men in fact do more work, or play for longer which deems them more deserving of the bigger prize purse. The same circumstances can be applied to stand up paddling, where it's common for the women to paddle in less heats than the men (like the recent Survivor SUP event in Waikiki); or for women and juniors to paddle a shorter course. But what if the event cannot be shortened?
This was the case for this weekends OluKai Ho'oleaule'a event on Maui, where paddlers completed the 8 mile Maliko Run from Maliko Bay to Kanaha beach park. Such a run cannot be abbreviated, nor can it be made any easier. So were the women deserving of equal prize money?
After the event, it becomes a little easier to see everyone on one equal playing field, and by taking a quick look at the finishing times of all competitors, it becomes clear that when it boils down to it, the women are actually slower than the men. As everyone expected, event favourite Connor Baxter finished the event in first place with a time of 47 minutes. Andrea Moller finished in 27th place overall, and almost 10 minutes later with a time of 56 minutes. That's around 20% slower when you work it out, and she won the same prize money.
Now before everyone jumps up and down crying 'outrage' at this, here's one word for you - Divisions.... If competition organisers were really worried about providing an equal competition for everyone, there would be no divisions - it would simply be a race. The winners get the prize money no matter whether they were man, woman or child. Then the race would be a true judge of who had the most stamina, best technique and smartest tactics. It's not that easy though, because the whole point of having divisions is to see who is the best man, and who is the best woman. It can't really be ignored that men and women ARE different when it comes to competitive sports, so what does it matter if the course is shorter or it takes longer? The first placed woman is still the first placed woman, no matter how far she had to paddle to win it.
It's a pretty tough subject, and one that will probably never be really settled - but you can expect to see more and more events being run with equal prize money in the stand up paddling world from now on, and who knows - maybe even a few races where there's no divisions? The fact that there's actually prize money at all (for such a new sport) is something to celebrate!