Ultimately, it’s about access. Almost every campaign we champion, every program we cultivate and every issue Surfrider Foundation weighs in on comes down to beach access.
Typically we deal with tangible barriers: illegal gates, unlawful signage, outrageous parking fees, rules designed to dissuade beach use, etc. But blocking others from using what are, by law, shared public resources isn’t always straightforward. Exclusion can happen through attitude and/or prejudice. Simply making a particular person or group feel unwelcome also denies them their right to the coast.
Which brings us to the California Coastal Commission meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 2 in Half Moon Bay, home of the Titans of Mavericks contest. Readers are likely versed in the controversy, but here’s a brief recap:
When granting the contest permit last year, the Commission agreed with members of the public who called out what they viewed as the men-only mentality of contest organizers thus far. Commission staff agreed that in the future, Cartel Management should better comply with Coastal Act Section 30210, which states that “maximum access… and recreational opportunities shall be provided for all of the people.”
Like many, we were surprised that Cartel disregarded that condition when applying for this year’s permit, instead, according to the Commission’s staff report, opting to continue “[reducing] access opportunities for a specific subset of people.” The obvious result was that, by ignoring conditions the Commission had set forth, Cartel had set themselves up for the contest permit application to be denied. Facing that unpleasant – and profit-impacting – reality sent organizers scrambling to include a women’s heat in the 2016-2017 contest window.
The move toward more inclusivity heartens us, but one heat, begrudgingly given, does not a gender gap close. The Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing calls for more, now. And in line with our dedication to access for all, Surfrider Foundation supports this proposal.
On Wednesday, the 12 members of the Coastal Commission will hear arguments from all sides, not only about the merits of the proposals in front of them, but whether or not to grant Cartel a multi-year permit. To their credit, the organization has taken steps to better protect the fragile bluff habitat adjacent to the contest, a critical improvement. We expect the local community of Half Moon Bay and the global community of surfers to weigh in on everything from potential traffic snarls to whether or not women deserve a place in the big wave line-up. Will the Commission continue to champion gender equity via the Coastal Act’s “all of the people” requirement? Stay tuned…