This time last year, an unprompted conversation occurred onstage at The Inertia’s inaugural EVOLVE Summit around equal pay. Alternative free surfer and all-around good human Leah Dawson joined professional ski mountaineer Caroline Gleich on a panel moderated by filmmaker and journalist Sachi Cunningham. Cunningham turned to Dawson and asked, “Do you think women should be paid equally, Leah?” Dawson turned it back to Cunningham and said, “Do you?” The crowd laughed, but the message was clear: while everyone agreed equal pay was the right thing to do, it seemed theoretical, that it would happen someday, just not tomorrow.
Meanwhile, a group comprised of four of the leading female big wave chargers, a San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner, and an attorney were embroiled in a behind-the-scenes effort to leverage California state agencies and create an avenue for equal pay at the Men’s and Women’s Big Wave Tour stop at Maverick’s. The group, who called themselves the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing, was unrelenting and managed to persuade the California Coastal Commission to include, as a condition of permitting an event at Maverick’s, that women surfers not only be given a division of their own but that they also be paid the same as their male counterparts.
Then, in September, the World Surf League made a monumental announcement: it would institute equal pay not just at Maverick’s but for all of its league-controlled events beginning in 2019 (and in the case of the Big Wave Tour, the 2018/2019 season). The move was celebrated far and wide.
At this year’s EVOLVE Summit, we were humbled to honor the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing as our 2019 Social Advocate – an award that recognizes individuals or groups working tirelessly to make surfing and the outdoors better, more inclusive spaces.
Keala Kennelly, Bianca Valenti, Sabrina Brennan, and Karen Tynan accepted the award on behalf of the Committee.
“The takeaway here is that if you want to make change, it doesn’t take a lot of people to do it,” said Brennan. “Sometimes, you just have to ask for what you want.”
Special thanks, again, to our presenting partners who made this monumental gathering possible: OluKai, 4ocean, Zola, Caliva, Klean Kanteen. As well as our grassroots partners: Pau Maui Vodka, Qalo, Kindhumans, Rise Brewing Co., All Good Products, Travellers Autobarn, Travel with Meaning, and 805 Beer. Thank you also to STOKE for enabling us to host this event as sustainably as we possibly could.