@ripcurl / Instagram | Inset: Kanaka Rastamon / Flickr

Popular surf brand Rip Curl is doing damage control after a now-deleted Instagram post featuring a trans surfer received major blowback from fans and a call for a boycott. The brand featured an image of 44-year-old Sasha Lowerson on its Instagram as part of its “Meet The Local Heroes of Western Australia” campaign. Lowerson competed in the men’s division as Ryan Egan until transitioning in 2021. Several commenters on X pointed out the brand’s hypocrisy for promoting a biological male in female sports, just months after it dropped biological female Bethany Hamilton. “Imagine, dropping a phenomenal professional surfer, who survived a shark biting her arm off, only to replace her with a man who pretends to be a woman. Guess what my followers and I will be doing? We will all #BoycottRipCurl” one person commented on X.

Hamilton famously lost her arm during a shark attack when she was thirteen years old in 2003. Despite the devastating injury, Hamilton would go on to become a professional surfer at age 17 and has credited her Christian faith for helping her succeed. Her story was featured in the Christian film “Soul Surfer.” Hamilton had served as a brand ambassador with Rip Curl for years but was dropped in recent months after she opposed the World Surf League’s adoption of new rules that allowed biological men to compete against women. “This concerns me as a professional athlete that has been competing in the World Surf League events for the past 15-plus years. I think many of the girls currently on tour are not in support with this new rule and they fear being ostracized if they speak up,” she said in a video at the time of the decision. She stated she would not compete against biological men. She recommended the league create a separate division for trans athletes.

After removing its post featuring Lowerson, Rip Curl issued an apology on Instagram. “Our recent post has landed us in the divisive space around transgender participation in competitive sport,” the post began. “We want to promote surfing for everyone in a respectful way but recognise we upset a lot of people with our post and for that, we are sorry.” The post also clarified that Lowerson is not sponsored by Rip Curl. Surf magazine “Shop, Eat, Surf” (SES) stated that the brand did not respond to its attempts at comment. “The company declined to make Rip Curl CEO Brooke Farris available for an interview to discuss the marketing campaign and subsequent reaction. It also declined to answer any further questions beyond the statement,” wrote SES. Hamilton responded to the controversy with her own post on X, writing, “Male-bodied athletes should not be competing in female sports. Period.” Riley Gaines, an outspoken advocate for protecting women’s sports, mocked the company’s reversal on X. “Hahahaha Ripcurl suddenly knows what a woman is,” she wrote. “They’ve also since deleted all posts promoting a male surfer posing as a woman after dropping Bethany Hamilton. They want you to forget about their contempt for women. Don’t.”

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