September 9, 2013
by Dave Kalama

Dave Kalama On Men’s vs Women’s Prize Money: “It’s Not About Equality, It’s About Competition”

UPDATE: Check out Part 2 of Dave Kalama’s take on the prize money debate.

Original article…

Dave Kalama Boss Man’s note: This is a guest post by Dave Kalama on the current debate around equal prize money for men and women in Stand Up Paddle races. There’s already been a lot of talk and suggestions about this (for example Jim Terrell would like to see prize money based on participation) and then recently the top women came together to have their say.

Before you read Dave’s comments let’s get some background. The top female paddlers recently sat down at the Gorge Paddle Challenge to debate the future of the sport from their perspective. A lot of the biggest names in women’s SUP racing were there and a lot of issues were covered, but the main topic was prize money. The general consensus was that women should receive equal prize money because:

– Gender equality is important
– Women train just as hard as men
– Women race the same courses as men

But is this the best way to approach it?

Below is Dave’s response plus his own idea for how to make prize money as fair as possible between men and women. Dave has been around since day one of stand up paddling (literally) and has competed in the ocean for over 30 years, so it’s safe to say he’s got a fair bit of knowledge when it comes to this sort of thing.


How To Make Prize Money Fair Between Men and Women

by Dave Kalama

Some of the top SUP women recently made some very good arguments for equal prize money and the main point seemed to be about “gender equality,” however I don’t think this topic should have anything to do with gender equality at all. It should all come down to the respective level competition in the men’s and women’s races…

If it had to do with the amount of work we put in, then the race would begin the minute we start to train. Everyone works hard, but no paddler gets paid because of their hard work and dedication to training, they only get paid for their results. I believe that’s the whole point of a race: It’s how you finished, not how you trained, not how you started, not who the sponsors were or where the money came from. That’s the business of the organisers, not the racers.

I have no doubt that most women are thinking I’m anti-equality at this point, however I believe it’s quite the opposite.

I’m pro-competition, regardless of gender. I feel that prize money should be awarded to the group that has the highest level of competition.

Generally speaking, the top 10 finishers in a race are a good representation of the level of competition, so what I propose is to measure the time difference between the first and tenth finishers, then create a percentage from the length of the race.

Whichever group (men/women) have a shorter time between first and tenth should theoretically have the higher level of competition in their race. If the women have a higher level, then pay them more than the men. If not, don’t. If you don’t want to make prize money about competition, but rather all the non-quantifiable peripheral arguments, we could debate this topic for days and both sides would have valid points, but we’d never get anywhere. I think basing it on level of competition is the fairest way.

Looking even further ahead: If the female paddlers really want to find out if they’re equal to the men then perhaps they should have their own, standalone event where it’s only women in the race. Let’s hold a standalone women’s SUP racing event and a standalone men’s event and see which one attracts more attention from fans, media and sponsors.

If the women’s event is a success and there’s good media coverage, then either they don’t need the men or they could conclude that they’re equal and should deserve equal prize money at the mixed-gender events. On the flip-side, if it’s not a success or there’s limited coverage from media, sponsors, etc, then you could conclude that the female racers aren’t as equal as the men. I do believe that, with the right promoter, women could have a very successful event, given the level of female participation in this port.

I know this is a touchy subject but my simple point is: Forget the hundreds of peripheral factors and simply base prize money on the level of competition.

What do you think? Is Dave spot on or off the mark? Do you want to high five him or stick a fork in his arm? Leave a comment below and share your opinion.


UPDATE: Check out Part 2 of Dave Kalama’s take on the prize money debate.