Women's skateboarders rode closer to X Games equality Thursday when Cara-Beth Burnside was awarded a $15,000 first prize for winning the women's vert competition at Staples Center.
That was a $13,000 increase over last year's first prize and a $10,000 increase from the prize planned before Burnside and fellow skateboarder Mimi Knoop met Wednesday afternoon at Staples Center with ESPN executive John Skipper to discuss gender equity issues at the X Games.
Burnside and her Action Sports Alliance, a group organized last year because of the inequities, also secured increased television exposure for women's events at future X Games and ensured that the group would have input in the running of women's skateboarding events. Burnside also hinted that women's surfing could be added to the X Games as soon as next year.
"It's what we wanted, you know," Burnside said. "Now were going to be even more united. Things are only going to get better from here."
Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president of content, confirmed the prize money increase and added television exposure and said the meeting was "positive."
"Just as we have grown women's sports in general and for Winter X, we plan to do so with Summer X," Skipper's statement said.
Women skateboarders had been upset because of the difference in prize money for their events when compared with the men in past X Games. Last year's vert winner, Pierre Luc Gagnon, won $50,000. Burnside won $2,000.
This year, women vert riders were scheduled to split a purse of $14,000 with $5,000 going to the winner. The total purse for the men's vert final Thursday was $108,000, with winner Sandro Dias taking home $50,000.
Burnside said the women also felt slighted because their events had not been shown on television. The men's events are shown live, with the vert event coming in prime time.
Because of the 11th-hour timing of the meeting, television coverage of this year's women's events couldn't be altered, but Burnside said she came away from Wednesday's meeting with Skipper confident that the network is committed to advancing women's action sports.
"He was really good about hearing our opinion about the changes we want to make and how it will help women in the future," she said.
All the competitors in Thursday's competition wore Action Sports Alliance T-shirts. Third-place finisher Karen Jones said that unity was paramount in the success of the group and that the future of women's skateboarding became a little brighter this week.
"This is something very extraordinary that is happening," she said. "And it's just beginning."