Stab Magazine | Jack's Surfboards Pro Called Into Question For Failing To Include A Women's Division
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Jack’s Surfboards Pro Called Into Question For Failing To Include A Women’s Division

A women’s advocacy group has petitioned the city of Huntington to add a women’s division to any and all surfing events. 

news // Mar 24, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Jack’s Surfboards Pro, a QS 1,500 event, is currently on its second day of competition. 

At time of writing, Round 2 Heat 10 is in the water with clean, chest-high waves on tap. Brazil’s Phillipe Chagas just dropped a 6.23 for three backside hangers. His reaction to the score revealed a distaste for the judging, but that is the least of the WSL’s worries right now. 

On Wednesday, March 20, The Committee for Equality in Women’s Surfing sent a letter to city officials, asking that the Jack’s Pro include a women’s division. 

Seeing as how they did all the background and interviews, we’ll let the OC Register take it from here: 

 

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Is this a gender-specific tube? Photo: WSL

 

The letter, sent by Sabrina Brennan, a co-founder of the advocacy group, asked that the city consider adding language to surf contest permits that “prohibits gender-based discrimination,” saying the group supports the inclusion of gendered categories — a women’s division and men’s division — at all surfing competitions.

It added that the group also supports requiring equal pay and prize money in all pro surfing competitions.

The Committee for Equality in Women’s Surfing recently made the case to the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission to prohibit a permit for a big-wave contest at Mavericks surf break in Northern California unless it included a women’s division.

“With Mavericks, we first had to get women included in the event before you could fight for equal pay. There’s not going to be equal pay, because you’re not in the competition at all,” she said.

The group also worked with the World Surf League to push for equal pay among men and women competing at the elite level, a historic move announced late last year that makes surfing the only professional sport in the country to offer equal pay.

Jamal Abdelmuti, marketing director for Jack’s Surfboards, said there was a discussion about adding a women’s category, but organizers had just a short time period for the event, which ends Sunday.

“We’re trying to grow the event, the obvious move would be to add a junior’s and women’s,” Abdelmuti said. “The scheduling sometimes doesn’t work out … we were thinking about adding 24 women, but time restriction didn’t allow it.”

AB 467, introduced by State Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, D-Encinitas, and now making its way through the legislature, would require equal pay for all athletes in events that are held on state property used for recreation.

Brennan said her group supports the bill because it’s about equal pay and prize money, but the bill does not cover the issue of inclusion.

On the flip side, events such as the Supergirl Pro in Oceanside — a women-only event — should include men, Brennan said.

 

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Jake Kelley puts up a near-nooner on Day 1 of the Boyz Rule Girlz Drool Pro. Photo: WSL

 

The World Surf League has made advances in pushing for gender equality, adding more events and prize money for females in recent years.

But a look at events through the year shows men still have more contests compared to women, with 11 World Tour events scheduled for men, compared to 10 for women. On the Qualifying Series level, the minor leagues of the event, there is even less opportunity for females to compete, with 64 events for men and 44 for women.

“The WSL is immensely proud of instituting equal prize money across all our owned and operated events and becoming the first US-based global sports league to do so,” said Joe Carr, WSL president tours, experiences, and international.

Brennan said her group is thrilled the WSL has committed to equal prize money, but if the pro surfing league is going to use the tagline “Every Wave for Everyone,” they have to back it up.

“That means events they are associated with, those events need to include both genders,” she said. “We want to help encourage them to be consistent.”

Huntington Beach City Manager Fred Wilson said in a statement there were no requests from promoters to host a women’s qualifying series event in the city, “but we would of course welcome applications for this type of event.

“Additionally,” he said, “HB hosts several co-ed surfing events that feature gender categories. We are not in the practice of dictating amount of prize money/pay distributed by outside promoters for these events.”

Brennan said not including a women’s category goes against the California Civil Rights Act, but it’s not her organization’s intent to file a lawsuit against the city.

“Our tactic is more about getting agencies, public agencies, to comply with the Civil Rights Act,” she said. “A simple tweak to permitting could solve the whole problem — going forward there would be competitions so that both men and women, pro athletes, have an opportunity to earn prize money.”

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One competitor wonders where all the women are. Photo: WSL

There’s a lot to digest here and several things to consider. For instance, should the WSL be forced to open each of its events to males and females? And if your gut tells you no, take a second to consider how you might feel if your gender wasn’t given the option to compete in certain events. 

Pay equality is great, but as Brennan outlined, it’s a bit meaningless if there’s not equal opportunity to compete (and earn said pay).

And if a legal precedent were established that forced all sporting events to give both males and females the option to compete, who would actually be worse off?

Probably nobody, right?

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