I’m Sabrina Brennan, I’m currently serving a second term on the San Mateo County Harbor Commission and I’m a co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing. I’m here today as a representative of CEWS.
When it was my turn to speak at the Nov 2015 Coastal Commission hearing, I explained that the San Mateo County Harbor District had a five-year exclusive permit with Cartel Management, the Titans event promoter. The permit specified that only one surf contest could be held at Mavericks from Nov 1 to March 31.
Three years ago, I asked you to add a condition requiring a women’s heat to a CDP for the event. It was the first time the Coastal Commission had ever considered permitting the Mavericks competition and some of you were surprised to learn that the event’s founder, Jeff Clark, had a history of gender-based discrimination.
At your Nov 2015 hearing a motion was made to approve the CDP application, and that was the moment Coastal Commissioner Mark Vargas said, “I'm a little concerned about the fact that there is no clear plan for highlighting, involving, or encouraging the growth of women in this event or in this sport. I'll float it out there. I'd like to see if I can make an amending motion to add a specific condition that we ask the applicant to provide a plan for encouraging equal opportunity for women surfers in future events.”
A clear mandate was issued in a 7-4 vote to approve Vargas’ amended motion. And in 2016 and 2017, your Commission voted unanimously to include women in the Mavericks competition.
There have been many hurdles including Griffin Guess’ discriminatory behavior and retaliation against women and his company, Cartel Management, filing bankruptcy in federal court.
In Aug 2017, the World Surf League bought the San Mateo County Harbor District multi-season permit out of bankruptcy for $525,000. We were hopeful that, women would finally have an opportunity to compete. However, by the time the WSL got their permits in order the seasons best surf conditions had already passed.
In 2018, the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing requested a meeting with the WSL on numerous occasions to address concerns about gender-based discrimination and equal pay. The WSL refused to schedule a meeting with us until after we sent Coastal Commission staff a letter on July 9, 2018, that said, “Unfair business practices prevent women professional surfers from utilizing public resources and coastal access. Please take action to prohibit gender-based discrimination.”
On July 23, 2018, CEWS met with the WSL in Redwood City. We presented a proposal for equal prize money and a multi-heat Women’s Division in the 2018/2019 Mavericks Challenge.
On July, 30, 2018, the WSL agreed to a three heat Women’s Division that would include up to 10 athletes.
On Sept 5, 2018, the WSL agreed to full prize money equality across all global WSL controlled events.
Starting in 2018, equal prize money will be awarded in the Big Wave Tour.
The season schedule for the 2018-2019 Big Wave Tour Women’s Division will include the Mavericks Challenge and the Pe'ahi Challenge.
In 2019, the Championship Tour, the Longboard Tour, and the World Junior Championships will be awarded equal prize money.
This is a precedent setting victory!
Recently, economics professor David Berri was quoted in a Cal Matters article by Laurel Rosenhall. Berri said, “the Mavericks case could set a precedent for local governments to demand equal pay in any sporting event held on public property.”
We hope that our success will expand future opportunities for inclusion and pay equity for all sport leagues and we look forward to future legislation.
The persistence of women and girls paid off
Women surfers and their supporters stood together, united in their demand for equality and pay equity. We did not back down and we refused anything less than equal pay when offered compromises such as equal pay at some future date in the next few years.
In July 2018, the WSL threatened to cancel the Mavericks surf competition and we stood our ground with helpful collaboration and assistance from two state agencies.
We thank the California Coastal Commission members and staff who have worked tirelessly to bring equality to the use of state resources for the Mavericks Challenge.
We thank the California State Lands Commission members and staff for their work in bringing equality to the publicly owned sovereign lands of California.