24 Apr Celebrating Equal Pay, Part 3
Top Photo Caption: ALWAYS HOPE… TARAH BENZEL-MIKACICH 2016 IWWF Boat Female Rider of the Year, a.k.a Tarah Mik, restores the faith in the Women’s Wakeboarding crusade as she rises through the ranks. Photo Credit: Sean O’Brien
In 2014 they dropped women from the tour, this was a low point as women had almost no outlets to compete except the WWA Nationals and Worlds. Around this same time, the WWA had taken our Nationals and Worlds back to be produced ‘in house’ rather than by Bonnier.” Corrie Dyer, WWA Executive Director.
The decision came as an unexpected blow, when after eighteen years of continuos inclusion, the women wakeboarders were cut from the Pro Tour. The following year, Malibu and Nautique Boats, both added pro-women divisions to the Nautique World Series and to the Malibu Evolution Pro Series, and with efforts from the WWA and the IWWF, the women’s pro circuit got back underway.
The professional circuit is a blessing for all the up and coming female spectators and for loyal riders like Tarah Mik. She continues to progress and has remained at the top of the sport she has devoted her whole life to. Tarah recently took top honors winning Wake the Desert in 2019.
At the beginning of the decade, Raquel Hoffman was a virtually unknown free rider. She studied at the University of Chico in California and wakeboarded with her sister on her free time. Hoffman entered an innovative Wakeboarding video contest that sought entries from the world’s best. She surprised everyone with her array of spins and mobes and was the second girl to land a 720 (after Amber Wing). The prize was a spot in the inaugural Tigé MyWake Global Challenge, an international wakeboarding competition where Raquel, who won the video contest, learned to compete like a pro.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT DALLAS FRIDAY
Early in the 2010 season, twenty-two year old Dallas Friday was still fresh from celebrating her comeback wins at the Queen of the Wake Series and at the 2009 World Championships. It had been a very special year for Dallas, who’d completely recovered and returned to the number one position after a three year hiatus since she’d shattered her femur in 2006. Dallas had started the season on a winning streak, when she suffered another devastating injury during a competition in Fort Worth Texas.
“Breaking my left femur in 2006 – mentally, that was just unbelievable,” she laments. “The knee was kind of the same thing, though, although the pain was worse than when I broke my leg. The knee injury was one of those things I never saw coming from a hundred miles.”
Dallas underwent reconstructive surgery, she injured her knee so severely, that she remained in physical therapy and out of the water for nearly 2.5 years. That injury has been the toughest physical and mental challenge of her wakeboarding career.
“I’ve never felt so completely heartbroken, drained and frustrated all at once. It took it all out of me and to get another injury, and to know what I have to look forward to, is really devastating. But through each injury, every athlete gets smarter and learns from it and grows as a person.”
Said Friday, staying positive while she recovered during an interview by redbull.com.
This time around, it’d take her twice as long. But she did it again. In 2013 she reclaimed the number one spot winning the 2013 WWA World Title, and she repeated the feat three years later, becoming the 2016 WWA World Champion, (her first win as a mom).
DALLAS FRIDAY TIMELINE
- 2003 WORLD CHAMP
- 2004 WORLD CHAMP
- 2006 WORLD CHAMP
- 2009 WORLD CHAMP
- 2013 WORLD CHAMP
- 2016 WORLD CHAMP
- *SIX WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD WINS
Adventures await while Dallas Friday’s journey continues to unfold like a lotus. Arising from the depths, enriched by the mud and blooming with all its magnificence, time and again towards the light.
Nicola Butler is one of the greats who supported and endured the pro women’s movement. She stayed at the top of the rankings her whole career. In 2011 She was ranked number one and again in 2018. She retired at the end of Butler is now focused on her second passion, photography.
After rising steadily through the junior ranks, Meagan Ethell, from Illinois, won her first world championship in 2012, Ethell is the reigning World Champion. She has successfully returned to the number one position after recovering from left and right ACL’s knee reconstructions; wakeboarding big league’s most common injury.
MEAGAN ETHELL’S TIMELINE
- 2012 WORLD CHAMP
- 2015 WORLD CHAMP
- 2017 WORLD CHAMP
- 2018 WORLD CHAMP
- 2019 WORLD CHAMP
The only thing that can slow down Meagan Ethell or Dallas Friday are injuries, after all Wakeboarding is an extreme sport. But the most remarkable trait both leading ladies have in common, is that they have come back from severe injuries, through reconstructive surgeries, months out of the water and grueling physical therapy, and neither of them ever stopped until they reclaimed the world title. It is rare to find that level of determination and discipline in two competitors at the same time.
Wing started her pro wakeboarding career alternating between training sets and cooking for campers at the Wakeboard Camp. She worked hard from the beginning earning every glimmer of her fame. Her devotion to the sport is a gift for women wakeboarders worldwide. Wing has been an active ambassador throughout her elite athletic career that has spanned over 15 years.
Today she is the creator of the Foundation For Women Wake, a yoga instructor and a mother of two. She retired from competition after the 2018 season, at age 35.
Blazing through the international arena, Nederland’s Denise de Hahn, became a four time Cable Park World Champion. She was a pro-rider from 2004 to 2012. “In 2015, the WWA was producing more and more events and added the Women to the WWA Wakeboard World Series. This gave the women seven events to compete at that year and an overall prize purse at the end of the series. This was a needed step to give women a platform on the World Stage to compete just as the guys had.” Corrie Dyer, WWA Executive Director.
Nothing stopped Bec Gange, the 2013 Female Trick of the Year winner, from Mildura, Australia. Bec, whose favorite trick is the Whirlybird 540, came out victorious at the 2014 WWA World Championships. After a formidable battle with gladiator Amber Wing and fearsome warrior Dallas Friday. Gange was crowned as the Women’s Wakeboarding World Champion and took the title back to Australia with the biggest win of her career.
“The first time I rode a wakeboard it was in Canyon Lake. One of my brothers friends let us borrow it. I was never that good at slalom skiing, what my dad and brothers taught me to do. Although I loved spending time with my family on the boat and the water, the moment I wakeboarded I stopped waterskiing. I fell in love with the sport of Wakeboarding.”
“I just remember my big brother doing it when he was 7 years old and I always wanted to do what he did, finally I got on the board and I didn’t have to wait for the boat to start, I was already standing on the board on top of the water. I was 6 years old and absolutely loved it”
The fairy tale continues, at the end of the season Wakeboarding’s golden princess Meaghan Ethell won the 2019 WWA World Championships and maintained her number one position. With five world titles to her name, if she wins again, she will tie Dallas Friday’s record.
Within the last three years, the women’s pro circuit has seen some greats retire. The likes of Melisa Marquardt, Raimi Merritt, Amber Wing, Larisa Morales and three time world champ Nicola Butler, who at the time of her retirement was ranked third in the 2019 WWA World Rankings.
“I can’t call it quits on an injury or pregnancy.” Amber Wing
Meanwhile top contenders like Bec Gange, Tarah Mik, Zahra Kell, Taylor McCullough and Jaimie Lopina have a crack in the door where new faces could shine. That is if they can squeeze in between Dallas Friday and Meaghan Ethell’s stronghold of winning streaks.
“We have to be the change. We have to create the events, we have to write the stories, we have to take the photos and we have to stand up for ourselves. In these digital days we all have the power to make our voices heard and it is now more important than ever for companies to keep their following happy. Words like “prosumers” are being frequently used in marketing and shows us just how much power consumers really have. The change is just within our reach and with the help of good people in companies working for fair sponsor deals and equal media coverage we will get there! And the good people are out there” -Carro Djupsjo
“Angelika Schriber is one of the most respected and revered riders on and off the water. At the 2011 Wake Park World Championships Ange rode in the Features Only division against all guys, to no one’s surprise, she won. A few minutes later she was pulled off the dock and took 2nd place in the Pro Women’s division.” – Courtesy WWA
Kell made history at the Malibu Factory Pro winning the first equal pay check in the boat category. She followed up by placing second at the 2019 WWA World Wakeboard Championships.
“Definitely one of the best moments on my wakeboard was winning the Factory Pro and taking away the biggest prize money in women’s wakeboarding.” – Zahra Kell
After the World Surfing League’s announcement in 2018, where they implemented Equal Pay in all of their contests, our sport offered Equal Pay at the IWWF Jordan Ayla Cable Wakeboard World Cup, the IWWF Shanghai Cable Wakeboard World Cup and at the WWA Wake Park World Championships in Playa del Carmen. Unfortunately, in 2019 there was no World Cup and none has been scheduled for 2020.
Suzi Nightingale, President of the IWWF World Cable Wakeboard Council is currently in talks with all event organizers that have prize money on International Events, to make sure Equal Cash Purses are included.
From it’s early inception, the women’s wakeboarding campaign has been supported by boat companies, like Supra, Indmar, Tigue, Mastercraft, Centurion and Moomba Mobius, who famously gave a boat away to the Women’s World Cup winner at the end of 1998 (more than twenty years ago). Today, the Cable Wake Park’s produce a stadium-like venue with infinite billboard advertising opportunities, with the aid of social media the possibilities are endless.
A Shout Out to The Equal Pay Events in 2019
Malibu Factory Pro. WWA Wake Park World Championships IWWF Amateur World Wakeboard Championships in Abu Dhabi.
*** All of the 2019 Nautique Wakesurf Series had Equal Pay events worldwide. They were a total of six, hosted in Europe, Asia, Canada and in the US.
2019 Pro Events with Women’s Cash Purse
- Nautique Masters
- Nautique WWA Nationals
- Nautique WWA World Championships
In 2020, the WWA Thailand Wake Park World Series event was programmed to have Equal Pay, as well as the IWWF “Cold Water Classic” at Lakeside Paradise in Belgium. Both events have been postponed.
Creating events with women’s cash prize is the way into the future. In those magic moments, seeds get planted in the young hearts of future competitors while they watch their heroes put everything on the line. Just ask 14 year old Kira Lewis, the 2018 and 2019 World Champion in Girls 10-13… Her coach is Amber Wing-Smith.
This story is dedicated to the brave women who dare follow their dreams, and to the men who love them. – Andrea Gaytan