- Devon O'Neil, Writer, Action Sports
- 0 Shares
For years, women's longboarding has had to decide its ASP World Tour champion based on one event -- an imperfect system given the variables involved with competitive surfing.
This year, the women finally got what they wanted: the ASP informed them on Feb. 16 that a second event would be added in October, allowing them to combine points from two contests. The issue? It will take place on Hainan Island in China, and that does not sit well with at least one high-profile competitor.
Reigning world champion Cori Schumacher has decided to boycott the world tour entirely, informing ASP tour manager Al Hunt and CEO Brodie Carr by e-mail. Her decision has become a hot topic on surfing forums, with some deriding Schumacher and some supporting her. In a phone interview with ESPN.com, Schumacher explained her decision.
"I was blown away when I got Al's e-mail," she said. "I remember being in shock, and the second thought I had was, why China? Every event we've ever done has been in a place with a surf culture. But then I started to realize the economics behind it."
Many of surfing's stalwart brands are manufactured in China, and the nation is considered a huge marketplace for professional sport expansion. In recent years, the NBA, PGA Tour and FIFA have all made attempts to tap into its economic potential, a fact cited by ASP media director Dave Prodan in an email to ESPN.com.
Carr declined to comment himself when asked how and why the China event came to be. He also declined to respond to Schumacher's comments.
However, in an email he sent Schumacher in late February, Carr encouraged her to "proactively go there as an ambassador of a sport that possesses the unparalleled ability to empower people." Schumacher's response read, in part, "Regardless of how you package it, I know the true cost of what you are advertising. I am not buying it."
She believes women longboarders are being used as a gateway for the ASP to enter China on good terms. "We're the least obnoxious, we're the leg of the tour that hasn't had any controversy or violence and we're not oversexualized like some of the other women," she said. "They're presenting surfing as this healthy, happy face, and in my opinion, the sport is being used to show China as a more western country, when the reality is the systemic changes that need to occur aren't occurring. China has made it very clear that they put economy ahead of the fundamental human rights of their people."
Schumacher, 33, has a history of protesting policies she views as being unjust, including same-sex marriage bans and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is a three-time world champion but elects not to take on sponsorship "so I can say what I want to say and be who I want to be." Instead of exploiting her surfing talents, she works as a waitress in San Diego, where she lives.
In China's case, she says the country has a history of restricting freedom of speech, religion and movement, and she claims the government's one-child policy "has been tied to forced sterilization, forced abortion and can lead to sex slavery."
"I feel like the surf industry, as a $6 billion industry, has enough leverage to encourage the Chinese government to make real policy changes that would make it more democratic, instead of just taking advantage of the economic situation," she said by phone.
Schumacher hasn't been contacted by any of the other women on tour, and she's fine with that, even if her decision conflicts with theirs.
In her email to Carr, she wrote: "As a business, I understand the ASP is just as much in peril of economic disruption as the rest of us. We are all struggling to make our bills, pay our rent and feed our families. But if it is at the cost of someone else's human rights, I would rather go without."
The ASP women's longboard world tour kicks off in Biarritz, France, on July 17.