The International Surfing Association has just released its policy for transgender surfers
The International Surfing Association (ISA) just set a precedent for surfing when it comes to classifying transgender athletes.
After the two main sports entities, the ISA and the World Surf League (WSL), were be careful to take a definitive position in the past, the ISA recently posted the official transgender policy on its website.
According politics, a transgender woman will need to show the ISA Medical Board “that her serum testosterone concentration has been below 5 nmol/L (nanomoles per liter) continuously for a period of the last 12 months” in order to compete in a women’s competition. division. There was no designation in the policy on how often competitors would be tested before an event or season in order to qualify, or what testing methods would be used.
To provide some background: Although estimating average testosterone levels is notoriously complex, according to Mount Sinai Hospitalthe average levels vary between 10 and 35 nmol/L in men and between 0.5 and 2.4 nmol/L in women.
The decision comes after a statement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in November 2021 where they avoided making a blanket policy, deferring the transgender classification decision to international federations. The IOC has issued a vague frame which encouraged federations to be fair, inclusive and evidence-based, among other things.
So how does the politics of surfing compare to that of other sports? The reality is that only a handful of International Olympic Federations have developed such policies, but that of the ISA conforms to the more “liberal” regulations, mirroring those created by World Rowing and the International Tennis Federation.
World Triathlon and Union Cycliste Internationale policies go even further, requiring transgender women to demonstrate testosterone levels below 2.5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 24 months.
The International Swimming Federation (FINA) and World Rugby have both taken more aggressive stances, essentially banning trans athletes from competing in women’s events. (FINA’s policy includes a caveat, allowing transgender women who transitioned before age 12.)
The ISA policy leaves the door open to interpretation and adaptation, as an athlete may also be required to meet “any other requirements reasonably determined by the Executive Committee and/or Medical Commission”.
The ISA also acknowledges that it will reassess the policy on an annual basis as research, information and feedback becomes available.
The fact that the ISA has a defined policy places it at the forefront of Olympic federations. Many federations, such as FIFA, the largest, have still not defined guidelines.
This policy is unlikely to have any significant effects on the world of competitive surfing at present, but the fact is that where there was no pathway for transgender athletes to compete, an official pathway now exists. at the highest level of sport, including Olympic qualifying. One can imagine that this framework will also affect the Olympic format of Paris 2024.