Surf lifestyle brand Rip Curl faced intense backlash for dropping Bethany Hamilton, a world-renowned female surfer, and featuring a biological male “transgender” surfer to promote women’s surfing.
Last year, Hamilton made headlines when she came out against policies allowing biological male surfers who think they’re “trans women” to compete against biological women, as Townhall covered. In her statement, she threatened to boycott the World Surf League over the policies.
Hamilton, who has surfed since she was 8, grew up in Hawaii and gained worldwide attention after she returned to her sport after losing her arm in a shark attack when she was 13 years old. The 2011 movie “Soul Surfer” is based on her life.
According to Daily Mail, Hamilton’s stance on transgender athletes caused Rip Curl to sever ties with her last year. And last week, Sasha Lowerson, 44, a “transgender” surfer, was featured on the company’s Instagram profile as part of the brand’s “Meet the Local Heroes of Western Australia” campaign (via Daily Mail):
Ms Lowerson, a professional surfer, first appeared in a Rip Curl social media post in August last year where she detailed how surfing in WA had shaped her life.
She continued the conversation on Wednesday, saying: ‘Sometimes it isn’t even the actual surf, it’s the journey itself, the chats that we have in the car on the long straight roads here in WA and the campfire afterwards.
‘Friendships grow on the search and I love that.’
However, the short was met with backlash from Rip Curl fans who believe Ms Lowerson should not be competing alongside athletes who were born women.
‘I was a college athlete. This hurts because it’s not like women can join men’s sports and win. We are not built the same way as men. Give trans their own league,’ one person wrote.
‘Yeah, I stand with Bethany Hamilton on this. Not cool,’ another said.
Several women’s sports advocates, including Riley Gaines, sounded off about the company’s decision to drop Hamilton and promote Lowerson.
Encouraging to see so many people reply that they're throwing out their Ripcurl apparel and pledging not to buy from them again. I didn't know people still wore Ripcurl anyways 😂— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) January 26, 2024
RIP Ripcurl https://t.co/DwuBzkW3Y7
The delusion and entitlement of men like this is wild. https://t.co/fIqPFaQza1— Taylor Silverman (@tmsilverman) January 28, 2024
Australian surfing brand Rip Curl has used a transgender biological man to represent women’s surfing.— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) January 27, 2024
Sasha Lowerson, 44, has been featured on the Rip Curl Women’s Instagram to promote women’s surfing in Australia.
In an Instagram post, the brand described the biological man… pic.twitter.com/SmkPRBjD0e
This is the new face of Rip Curl Women’s Surfing.— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) January 28, 2024
Transgender surfer Sasha Lowerson has just been featured in an advert promoting women’s surfing for Australian surfing brand Rip Curl.
Before competing in women’s surfing he previously said he was nervous to compete with women… pic.twitter.com/tQfSejZuyW
Shortly after, Rip Curl reportedly removed the post about Lowerson.
Hahahaha Ripcurl suddenly knows what a woman is— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) January 28, 2024
They've also since deleted all posts promoting a male surfer posing as a woman after dropping Bethany Hamilton. They want you to forget about their contempt for women. Don't. #RIPcurl https://t.co/amScGX3wFs
UPDATE- it appears @ripcurl has removed this post of a man dressed up as a woman from their Instagram ripcurl_women. This won’t undo the damage they have already done to their company. It will only make trans activists hate them too. https://t.co/eDf9EHb4Ok— Taylor Silverman (@tmsilverman) January 28, 2024
The issue of men who believe they are “transgender” competing in women’s sports was pushed to the forefront in recent years over Will “Lia” Thomas. Thomas competed on the women’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania after competing on the men’s team for three years.
Predictably, Thomas robbed biological women of opportunities and won races competing against women. At the NCAA championships, Thomas took home a NCAA Division I Title. And, when he tied against Riley Gaines at the NCAA championships, he was permitted to take the trophy home, while Gaines left empty-handed.
Since then, Townhall has covered how lots of men who believe they are women have taken accolades away from deserving women, including in sports, in beauty pageants, in brand deals with makeup and swimwear companies, and in magazine listicles of influential women.