World Surf League reveals new policy on trans athletes

A surfer riding a wave

The World Surf League has announced it is to adopt a new policy on transgender athletes.

The governing body announced it would adopt a policy recommended by the International Surfing Association (ISA) in a Friday (3 February) statement.

Under new guidelines, trans female athletes are required to maintain a testosterone level of less than 5 nmol/L (nanomoles per litre) for at least 12 months in order to compete in the women’s division.

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

The ISA first recommended the policy in October 2022 following pressure from various groups due to the ongoing controversy surrounding trans athletic participation.

The international organisation said it based the policy on guidance from its medical commission and vowed to reevaluate recommendations annually.

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“The ISA is committed to the fundamental principles of fairness and equality of opportunity, and therefore this policy will be reevaluated annually as more research, information, and feedback becomes available.”

Miley-Dyer explained to The Inertia that the decision was made unanimously among WSL leadership following a review.

She added that there had been “a lot of conversations with a lot of different stakeholders groups” during deliberation on the matter, adding that WSL officials recognised the ISA “took a very deliberate approach.”

Tests to check for eligibility will not be done by World Surf League, but will be arranged by applicants looking to compete.

Those tests will then be sent to WSL medical officers, who will have a “confidential conversation” to discuss medical requirements.

Several experts and athletes have explained that creating a comprehensive trans policy is often incredibly tricky because there isn’t enough research to suggest whether there are advantages.

Trans male athletic swimmer Schuyler Bailar explained to PinkNews in 2022 that the often hostile debate on trans athletes participating in sports makes it difficult for progress to be made.

“There’s a really big problem with putting out rules right now on trans athletes because we don’t actually have robust research,” he said.

“Why? Because we’re not allowed to play.

“Not a lot of us have actually competed at elite level sports because of the amount of discrimination we experience.”

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