‘Soul Surfer’ Bethany Hamilton announces she won’t compete against transgender athletes

Famous surfer Bethany Hamilton has spoken out against biological males competing in women’s surfing events after her league announced a transgender policy change.

Hamilton, who became famous as a teenager after a 14-foot-long tiger shark bit off her left arm, posted an Instagram video on Saturday questioning the World Surf League’s (WSL) decision to allow biological males to compete in women’s events.

“Does this better the sport of surfing?” she asked. “Is this better for the women in surfing?”

On Friday, the WSL announced it would follow the International Surfing Association’s transgender policy, released in Oct. 2022. 

“The WSL is working hard to balance equity and fairness and it’s important for a policy to be in place,” said Jessi Miley-Dyer, chief of sport for WSL. 

One requirement in the rules is that an athlete must maintain testosterone levels less than 5 nmol/L to compete as a woman. 

Normal testosterone levels for men are 10 to 35 nmol/L, while women range from 0.5 to 2.4, meaning transgender athletes could compete as women despite having more than double the amount of testosterone as a biological woman. 

Hamilton has been competing in the WSL for over 15 years, but she won’t continue doing so if the policy is enacted. 

“I think many of the girls currently on tour are not in support with this new rule, and they fear of being ostracized if they speak up,” said Hamilton. “I personally won’t be competing in or supporting the World Surf League if this rule remains.” 

She cited running and swimming as sports in which men have a biological advantage over women. The fastest 100-meter dash by a woman is almost a whole second slower than the current world record, while the disparity is almost 5 seconds in the 100-meter freestyle swim.  

Serena Williams, argued to be one of the greatest female athletes of all time, unilaterally dismissed the idea that men and women could compete on equal footing.

“Men’s tennis and women’s tennis are completely almost two separate sports,” said Williams. “It’s a completely different sport.” 

Hamilton instead suggested a separate league should be created to host transgender surfers.  

Several prominent female athletes, including Olympic gold medalist skier Julia Mancuso and NCAA All-American swimmer Riley Gaines, lent their support.  

“Thanks for speaking up for all women and girls out there,” wrote Mancuso, according to Fox News. “Those are all interesting questions to navigate this difficult topic and let’s hope we can keep fighting for the future of women’s sports.”  

“I can’t express how inspiring this is,” Gaines said of Hamilton’s stance.  

Gaines previously shared her experience as an NCAA swimmer and competitor of transgender athlete Lia Thomas with The Lion 

Notable conservative figures, including Brave Books and commentator Robby Starbuck, also praised Hamilton.

In addition to her surfing career, Hamilton has become an inspirational public figure. She has published numerous books, including her autobiography, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, several Christian devotionals, and surf-themed children’s books. 

She also founded the Beautifully Flawed Foundation, which hosts a renowned conference for young amputee women.