WHEN the world's best surfers gather at Merewether next month for the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup, the women will hit the water knowing they are competing for the same amounts of prize money as the men.
The prize money parity is just one sign of the revolution that has shaken pro surfing - and indeed just about every major sport - to its core, as a new era of female determination up-ends the old male-dominated perception that women's events are some sort of second-rate sideshows.
And the the rise of the professional sportswoman in a range of once single-sex sports is part of a wider upheaval of gender politics as women around the world demand to be heard, regardless of what the "straight, white men" - to quote from the shirt of a woman at Monday's March 4 Justice rally, featured on the Newcastle Herald's front page the next day - might think.
OK. Pro surfing is sport, not politics, but cultural questions are never far from the surface, and the hoopla of the World Surf League World Championship Tour lands on our doorstep just as a riveting film - the provocatively and ironically titled Girls Can't Surf - is making a massive splash of its own.
GCS features many of the big pioneer names in women's pro surfing - including seven times world champ (and Burton Family Toyota advertising star) Layne Beachley - giving the men of surfing a scarifyingly honest character appraisal as they talk about the sexism, in all of its forms, that they endured on the tour.
In the lead-up to the Newcastle Cup, the Herald has spoken to a slew of the Hunter's best surfers, and while things are not perfect, the women say things have improved out of sight, and it's a brave man who will mouth the line of a young Mark Occhilupo in his cameo in the 1981 movie Puberty Blues, and say that "chicks can't surf". Because for starters, he'd be dead wrong.
At every Hunter beach, women are out in the lineup.
Their numbers are growing, along with their skill. Women have surfed for as long as the boys, although just not in the same numbers.
And over coming days, you'll meet this region's best, and hear what they've achieved, and why they love what they do.
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