Prize Parity

Brennan’s AB 467 remarks to the California State Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media

I’m Sabrina Brennan, President of the San Mateo County Harbor Commission and Co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing. Thank you for this opportunity to address the committee.  

This morning, I awoke to a reoccurring nightmare about gender-based discrimination in the workplace, unfair business practices, and the systematic exclusion of women professional athletes from competitions.  

Today, I’m here representing the San Mateo County Harbor District.  We issue a Special Use Permit for the iconic Mavericks Challenge big-wave surf competition, held near Half Moon Bay. Mavericks was founded in 1998 and the contest is internationally known for producing 30’ to 60’ waves and its event promoters are notorious for gender-based discrimination. 

The first Mavericks Competition was titled, “Men Who Ride Mountains.” Now, two decades later, women big wave surfers have still not had an opportunity to compete. 

It’s impossible to achieve equal pay in athletic competitions that exclude women.

Please read the March 29th letter from the Harbor Commission. We respectfully request that AB 467 be amended to protect athletes from gender-based discrimination, consistent with the Unruh Civil Rights Act. 

We urge you to address concerns about unintended consequences. Please close the loophole in AB 467 that encourages and incentivizes event businesses, promoters and athletic organizations to exclude female categories from athletic competitions, in an effort to thwart equal pay requirements. 

Please require the following: 

  • A female category and a male category for all athletic competitions held on California state lands.

  • Equal prize money.  

  • Category winners receive the exact same prize amount. 

  • No total purse formula applied. 

  • Equal logistical support for all categories (including travel related expense; airfare, hotel, etc.).

  • Equal equipment for all categories.

Mavericks is not the only professional athletic competition with a history of gender-based discrimination. 

Last month, women were excluded from competing in Huntington Beach at the Jack’s Surfboards Pro, a World Surf League 1,500 Qualifying Series event, that awards prize money and points. 

Women pro surfers are concerned about the scarcity of qualifying events in California, this inequity significantly limits their opportunities to make a living as pro athletes. 

Increasing the number of events and awards for women, as well as offering equal prize money, is the only way to achieve meaningful equity in competitive sports. 

Equal pay is only part of the problem. Please require that all State agency permits and leases prohibit discrimination. Please amend AB 467 to require businesses and organizations that manage and promote athletic competitions on California state lands comply with the Unruh Civil Rights Act. 

Unfair business practices prevent women professional surfers from utilizing public resources and coastal access. Please act to prohibit gender-based discrimination.

Please ensure that AB 467 provides the oversight necessary to stop decades of gender-based discrimination.