Wahine find bigger purses under the tree in 2014

It’s the holiday season and everyone is in the giving spirit. People certainly talk a big game this time of year, even if deep down they were hoping to be on Santa’s “nice” list, waking up to have discovered a major haul under the tree on Thursday morning. I’m always trying to improve upon my own generosity and so, it seems, is the ASP.

For a long time, the women’s world tour hasn’t matched up with the men’s in terms of prize money, notoriety and exposure. But in a very short time period, the wahine have started earning their fair share of the sponsorship dollars.

Just two years ago, Stephanie Gilmore won her fifth world championship. Winning three contests along the way, Gilmore finished the season with $71,500 in earnings. That’s nothing to sneeze at. You wouldn’t hear from me for years if I had that lump sum dropped in my lap. But that same season, Joel Parkinson won the men’s world title and earned $266,000. Kelly Slater took second and made $344,250.

There are many reasons for the disparity, including the fact that the women surfed seven contests to the men’s 10. But Tyler Wright finished fourth in 2012 and made $47,500. Dusty Payne missed four contests with injury, never made it past the third round all season and finished 32nd in the rankings. He still almost equaled her with $46,500.

In fact, the top 27 on the 2012 men’s tour all made more than Gilmore did for winning the title.

Things have dramatically improved. For Gilmore’s sixth world championship this season, she earned $292,500. Every woman in the top 17 earned more in 2014 than Gilmore did in 2012. The four women in the title race all season — Gilmore, Wright, Carissa Moore, Sally Fitzgibbons — all topped $250,000.

The top men are still making more, but the margin is much tighter. World champion Gabriel Medina finished 2014 with $431,500 in earnings. Mick Fanning finished second and made $397,000. But Slater finished fourth and earned $188,500, less than all four of the top women. I’m sure two years ago nobody could have fathomed Slater being in the title hunt until the final contest and still making less money than a fourth-place Fitzgibbons.

The women are getting their faces out there thanks to both better ASP — sorry, WSL (that’s going to take a little time) — efforts in marketing, as well as more promotional opportunities with their sponsors. The magazines are giving more ink to their efforts and they’re getting just as swarmed on the beaches of the events as the men are. So they’ve made themselves a bigger draw, increasing prize purses.

Both tours had great and competitive seasons, so the fact that the wahine are now charging only one fewer contest and moving to more waves of consequence makes it only fair that they earn what the men are bringing in.

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‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to dsimon@thegardenisland.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI

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