Australian Tyler Wright, a two-time world champion, became one of the most prominent surfers to take a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement at the Tweed Coast Pro event Sunday morning.
Wright knelt, with her fist raised, for 439 seconds —one second each to honor the 439 First Nations persons in Australia who have lost their lives in police custody since 1991. So there would be no mistaking why Wright was taking a knee, she also had Black Lives Matter written on the back of her board. Unlike traditional sporting events, surfing competitions don’t make use of national anthems, so Wright used over 7 minutes of her heat time to protest racial and social injustice.
“Before I’m an athlete, I’m a human being,” <a href=”
While taking a knee can read as performative in spaces where it will be readily accepted and supported, Wright’s decision was a bold step in surfing’s tight knit, predominantly white community. There are few pro Black surfers, and even fewer Indigenous surfers, and much of the conversation around racial justice has yet to penetrate into a sport that lives inside its own bubble.
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“The WSL is in full support of Wright and everyone around the world who are making their voices heard against racism and injustice. Surfing is for everyone and the WSL stands in solidarity to proactively work against racism and fight for true equality.”
While prominent surfers like Mick Fanning, Stephanie Gilmore and Layne Beachley also stood by Wright on social media, there was a fair bit of backlash as well from a surfing community that has many inroads to make in terms of diversity and inclusion.
“Oh cool. Now I have to stop watching surfing too. BLM is a Marxist organization and it’s built on a lie,” one of the most liked comments on the <a href=”
Wright also earned the support of Black Girls Surf, a nonprofit dedicated to getting more Black girls and women into surfing.
“We’re going to hold her allyship high and dear, but also recognizing that this is only one step in a long road of true equality within the professional surf community,” the organization <a href=”
Wright went on to win the event, defeating seven-time world champion and fellow Aussie, Stephanie Gilmore in the final.