Celebrity Surfer Who Lost Arm in Shark Attack Vows to Boycott League over Trans-Inclusion Policy

Celebrity surfer Bethany Hamilton, whose story of losing her arm in a shark attack inspired the movie Soul Surfer, on Saturday took aim at the World Surf League’s new transgender inclusion rule, vowing to boycott future events unless it is repealed.

“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 said in an Instagram video. “This concerns me as a professional athlete that has been competing in World Surf League events for the past 15 plus years…I think many of the girls on tour are not in support of this rule and fear being ostracized if they speak up.

The World Surf League has claimed that it adopted the same set of regulations as the International Surfing Association (ISA), which required transgender-identifying female athletes to maintain a testosterone level of less than 5 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months to be eligible.

“The WSL is working hard to balance equity and fairness, and it’s important for a policy to be in place,” said WSL Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer in a statement upon the rule’s unveiling Friday. “We recognise that the policy may need to evolve over time as we get feedback and see new research in the field.”

In a post that generated over 120,000 likes, Hamilton questioned the reasoning behind the new rule. She was particularly frustrated that the league did not ask the 17 women on tour with the organization for their input before enacting it.

“Is a hormone level an honest and accurate depiction that someone is indeed a male or female. Is it as simple as that?,” she asked, noting that there are many recent examples of “male dominance” in other women’s sports like running and swimming.

Prominent female athletes, like Olympic gold medalist skier Julia Mancuso and NCAA All-American swimmer Riley Gaines, jumped to Hamilton’s defense in the comments of the video.

“I support you Bethany,” Mancuso said. “Thanks for speaking up for all women and girls out there. Those are all interesting questions to navigate this difficult topic and let’s hope we can keep fighting for the future of womens sports.”

Gaines wrote, “THANK YOU for using your platform to share this. I can’t express how inspiring this is.”

Hamilton advocated for a separate category for transgender female entrants, an approach adopted by the World Boxing Council, an international professional boxing organization.

“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, and I think it’s really hard to imagine what the future of women’s surging will be like if we move forward with this major change,” Hamilton said.

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