This morning while the world’s best male standup paddlers were fighting for survival on a death-defying race course in 20-foot waves at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, the world’s best female standup paddlers were fighting for their right to join them.

The 2017 Red Bull Heavy Water event—Red Bull’s flagship invite-only survival SUP race—was happening in epic conditions. Apparently, only men got the invite.

The showing that took place was epic and the event will surely be logged into the history books as one of the gnarliest races to date. But with a male-only field, advocates for equality took issue with the event long before the start. Female SUP athletes from all corners of the world—the likes of champions Annabel Anderson, Sonni Hönscheid, Candice Appleby and many more—rallied a protest that launched this morning on social media as Heavy Water got underway. Images of the world’s top female paddlers holding signs that #ipaddleforequality flooded news feeds alongside our exclusive Live Webcast of the event and a voice of solidarity representing roughly half the paddling community was heard loud and clear.

While Red Bull is the title sponsor of Heavy Water, many of the activists are pointing their blame to race organizers with the APP World Tour. This joint statement was released from Red Bull and APP (Associated of Paddlesurf Professionals) this evening:

“The sponsors and the organizers of Red Bull Heavy Water discussed engaging female participants with the Paddlers' Collective in early September when the event was announced, but no follow up on behalf of the Paddlers' Collective was made. Red Bull and the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals said that they hope that they will see female participation in Red Bull Heavy Water in 2018 and subsequent years.”

We’ll have more on the debate as details surface in the wake of the event.

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