Bianca Valenti

Sabrina's Jan 19, 2019 Speech: Women's March in San Jose

We just won the fight for Equal Pay in professional surfing.

Gender-based discrimination in pro surfing first caught my attention in 1999 when Jeff Clark founded the Mavericks big wave surf competition in Half Moon Bay. The event was named, “Men Who Ride Mountains.” Now it’s two decades later, and women athletes have still not had an opportunity to compete in the Mavericks surf contest, however that will change when the next event is held.

Let me provide a little background:  Women big wave surfers ride 25-to 68-foot waves at the most dangerous spots on earth. The largest wave ever surfed by a woman is the height of a 7-story building.

In 2015, I asked the California Coastal Commission to require that women be allowed to compete in the Mavericks surf contest. My request was supported in a 7-4 vote. 

That success got the attention of professional big wave surfers Bianca Valenti, Paige Alms, Keala Kennelly, and Andrea Moller. Together we formed the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing with founding counsel Karen Tynan.

In 2016, Paige Alms made history as the first Women’s Big Wave Champion at Pe’ahi, Hawaii. The WSL paid Alms $15,000 in prize money and they paid the men’s division winner $25,000. What do you think of that? 

A year ago, in Oct 2017, Alms successfully defended her title and again was paid 40% less money than a man.

Last summer, San Francisco big wave surfer Bianca Valenti made history as the first Women’s Big Wave Champion in Latin America at the Puerto Escondido Cup. The WSL paid Valenti 75% less than her male counterpart surfing the same wave on the same day.

Six month ago, the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing met with the World Surf League in Redwood City and presented a proposal for equal prize money. We told the WSL to end gender-based discrimination.  CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said NO, and threatened to cancel the entire Mavericks surf competition rather than pay women equally.

What did we do?  Back down?  Accept less?  Hell NO!  We stood our ground and went back to the Coastal Commission and demanded equal pay and equal access at Mavericks. We also got help from Betty Yee and Gavin Newsom and the California State Lands Commission staff.  

Here’s what happened next:  In Sept, the WSL announced global equal prize money for every WSL event, including the Mavericks Challenge, which may be held next month depending on surf conditions.   

Four women surfers, an activist, a lawyer and our supporters stood together, united in our demand for equality and pay equity.

And here we are today:  State legislators have taken an interest in the precedent our work has set and they are pursuing a gender equity in sports bill. Please stay tuned because we need your help educating state lawmakers about why they must pass legislation that requires equal pay!

Six women to compete for own Mavericks title: Big wave surf competition to host first women’s division

San Mateo Daily Journal - Samantha Weigel

Coastside resident and activist Sabrina Brennan, a local harbor commissioner who’s advocated for women’s inclusion and is working with the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing, said she’s thrilled to see this first step.

“This is just really fantastic news and nice that it’s happening the same year that we are hopefully going to be electing our first woman president. I think it’s a really important year for women and I’m glad to see their recognition and they’re making a significant step forward toward the inclusion of women and I hope that grows,” Brennan said.

Brennan noted many of the group’s requests — such as having women involved in the selection process, providing more than just a one-heat women’s division and an equal purse prize — still stand.

“My hope is that the event evolves,” Brennan said. “There needs to be real equity.”

Women to surf at Titans of Mavericks

The Mercury News - Julie Jag

“I’m pretty excited about what’s going on, especially since Friday I was pretty pissed off,” said Sabrina Brennan, who has been a driving force for the inclusion of women in the competition.

Brennan, a San Mateo County Harbor District Commissioner, made her initial push for inclusion when she appeared before the California Coastal Commission during its local meeting in 2015. She asked the CCC to make including women in the contest a requirement for obtaining the commission’s permit. The commission voted to adopt the requirement for future permits. 

Brennan said Wednesday’s announcement is good news. Still, she noted that the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing — the group founded by pro surfers Bianca Valenti, Keala Kennelly, Paige Alms and Andrea Moller — will continue to push for equal treatment.

“It is great news. I’m very excited about it,” Brennan said. “I think having the dialogue is very important.”

“Whoever holds the permit needs to run a professional event,” she added, “and that means including equity for women.”

Women to compete at Mavericks!

To-date no women have competed in the Mavericks surf contest and the event does not include a women’s heat. Typically competitive surfing heats are not mixed gender. Requiring that top women athletes preform like top male athletes is unreasonable. By doing this the Titans of Mavericks board of directors and “Committee 5” have effectively blocked women from competing.

I support including an all women’s heat in the Mavericks event. Not a mixed gender heat.

 Paige Alms of Haiku, Maui

Please checkout my Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 presentation to the California Coastal Commission. 

After my presentation Coastal Commissioner Mark Vargas of Los Angeles made a motion to amend the Coastal Development Permit for the Titans of Mavericks surf contest and add a condition to allow women to compete in the 2016-2017 event. Commissioner Martha McClure of Del Norte County seconded the motion.  The motion passed in a 7-4 vote.

Coastal Commission 7-4 vote count

  • Bochco - no
  • Cox - yes
  • Groom - no
  • Howell - yes
  • Lueveno - yes
  • McClure - yes
  • Shallenberger - no
  • Turnbull-Sanders - yes
  • Uranga - yes
  • Vargas - yes
  • Kinsey - no


Coastal Commissioner Mark Vargas made the following remarks and motion:  

“I'm still 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 would really love to see an amendment.  I understand that were too close to the event this year, but if this is going to be contemplated as an extension (permit extension) that could possibly have four more years of extension we should start contemplating a plan for encouragement and inclusion on women in this event. So that we (Coastal Commission) can review it, and have that information available for next year when this permit comes back up for renewal. I appreciate that it's a one time, one year permit but Mavericks has been going on for a long time and Mavericks will continue to go on.  I'm sure we'll be back here next year and it would be unfortunate if we don't start planning now for the inclusion of women and to see more women involved in this program, and not wait until a year from now.  
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.”


My presentation is 2:10:37 minutes into the video and the motion is 2:56:24 into the video.

 Maya Gabeira of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


News links:

Mavericks needs women

Half Moon Bay Review — Op-Ed by Sabrina Brennan — Jan 27, 2016

Just Add Water: Women seek equal footing at Mavericks

Santa Cruz Sentinel — Haven Livingston — Dec 19, 2015

Half Moon Bay local Sabrina Brennan presented a sideshow of female big wave surfers during the California Coastal Commission hearing in November when the commission approved a coastal development permit for the Titans of Mavericks big wave surf contest. Brennan, also a San Mateo Harbor Commissioner, said she attended the meeting as a concerned citizen. She has been watching women surf Mavericks, located near the Pillar Point Harbor, for years and has been disappointed to never see them in the contest. She intended to illuminate inequality in the selection process that newcomer Cartel Management and its “Committee 5” use to select Titans of Mavericks invitees.

Mavericks Faces Pressure for Women to Surf Big-Wave Contest

Forum KQED radio — host Mina Kim — Fri, Dec 11, 2015

  • Guests: Bianca Valenti, professional surfer and Bruce Jenkins, sports columnist, San Francisco Chronicle

Women want spot in big wave surf competition in California

Washington Post — By Kristin J. Bender — Dec 5, 2015

How Women Will Evolve Big Wave Surfing

Inertia — by Beth O'Rourke — Nov. 16, 2015

Add women to Mavericks lineup and be on right side of history

Half Moon Bay Review — by Clay Lambert — Nov. 11, 2015

Women to get fair shake at Mavericks

Santa Cruz Sentinel — by Haven Livingston — Nov. 6, 2015

Titans gets Coastal Commission approval: Permit issued for Mavericks surf competition

San Mateo Daily Journal — by Samantha Weigel — Nov. 6, 2015

Mavericks organizers get crucial last permit

Half Moon Bay Review — by Carina Woudenberg — Nov. 5, 2015