“Making Space For Women Shouldn’t Be The Fall Of Men”
The Honolulu City Council just voted to reassess the gender inequity in North Shore surf events.
There are no professional surf events for women on the island of Oahu.
Unless of course you count the Queen of the Bay, a one-off event at Waimea that, due to its annual window of October 1-November 21, has never actually run in its 10-year theoretical existence.
But for any professional or aspiring professional female surfer who hails from the most prestigious surfing destination on earth, to even have a chance at qualifying, you have to leave not just the North Shore, not just Oahu, but all of the Hawaiian islands if you want to prove yourself against the world’s best.
Meanwhile, men can make the CT without leaving the 7.5-mile strip between Sunset and Haleiwa.
That’s why a group of motivated women, most of whom are established figures in the big wave world, have made a giant leap toward creating gender equity in accessibility to qualify, starting with North Shore surf events.
This week, Keala Kennelly, Jaws winners Paige Alms, and fellow big-wavers Andrea Moller and Bianca Valenti presented the Honolulu City Council with Resolution 20-12. The resolution essentially asks the Honolulu City Department of Parks and Recreation and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources to follow federal laws pertaining to gender equity in sport. After a unanimous vote, they won.
Today, we spoke with Shannon Quirk (better known as Shannon Reporting), who has been, well… reporting extensively on the topic, to get a better understanding of what these women are asking for and where the situation stands.
The current climate:
The North Shore of Oahu has a certain number of competition permits that it can legally provide throughout the year. According to Shannon, that number is currently maxed out with: the Sunset Pro, Volcom Pipe Pro, the Backdoor Shootout, the Vans Pro, the Hawaiian Pro, the Vans World Cup, and the Pipeline Masters (with some amateur events and the Eddie/Queen of the Bay sprinkled in).
“Due to these permitting laws, even if we got $1M in funding for a women’s event at some North Shore spot, we literally couldn’t get approval because there are no permits left to give,” Shannon explained.
So… why not just add more permits?
“None of the North Shore locals want more contests,” Shannon continued. “And who can blame them?”
What women want:
The women want an opportunity to compete on the North Shore of Oahu, both to have a chance to surf waves like Sunset, Haleiwa, and Pipe in a controlled environment and to be able to earn qualification points toward the Championship Tour without spending the time and money necessary to leave Hawaii.
However, given the aforementioned permitting laws, this is easier said than done.
In order to give the women what they’re asking for, the Honolulu City Department of Parks and Recreation and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources would either need to provide more permits or ensure that the pre-existing, currently-all-male events included a female component.
“The men don’t even have to leave the North Shore to qualify,” Shannon said. “Between the Volcom Pipe Pro, two lower-tier events at Sunset and then the Triple Crown, a Hawaiian male could easily make the CT without leaving this seven-mile stretch. Meanwhile, the women don’t even get one chance to compete at home. That’s just insane to me.
“But at the same time, nobody here is trying to take anything away from the men,” Shannon continued. “This is just about being equitable to all surfers and, frankly, following the law. The resolution we presented isn’t fighting for any legal changes—it’s just asking the City of Honolulu to abide by a pre-existing federal law, which it hasn’t been for many years.”
Essentially, the women would be happy to have their own events or tag along with the pre-existing men’s events. They just want the chance to compete close to home.
What women got:
Yesterday, the Honolulu City Council voted unanimously to pass Resolution 20-12.
Part of the agreement is that a special counsel to the Mayor, consisting of at least 50% women, will be formed “as soon as possible” to oversee future permitting decisions, in hopes that this counsel will push for gender equity in professional surf events on the North Shore.
Because the 2020 WSL events have already been permitted and scheduled, it’s unlikely that women will achieve inclusion in this calendar year. However, 2021 is more hopeful.
Assuming gender equity will be pursued, the question becomes which of the following paths will be followed to achieve the desired end:
- more permits will be created to facilitate female events
- certain permits will be stripped from currently all-male events and given to women
- extra days will be added to currently-all-male event permits to allow time and space for women to compete
- currently-all-male events will have their number of male participants decreased to make space for women within the permits’ allotted parameters (number of days they can run, number of competitors allowed, etc.).
Some will argue that women’s surfing doesn’t “deserve” space in these North Shore events, pointing to the limited number of females who currently surf these waves (particularly Pipe) on a regular basis and/or with some arbitrary level “success”.
While we’ll probably never change these people’s crystallized views of not just surfing, but the world as a whole, we can point to women like 20-year-old Moana Jones, who has demonstrated a true mastery of Pipeline in recent years, and the even-younger Rip Curl Women’s team, who, if this video is an indicator of things to come (and it is), will have no qualms pushing over the ledge in future years.
Assuming gender equity is achieved in North Shore surf events by 2021, is it possible that the women’s performances in these events will underwhelm? Maybe, sure. But will the fact that they’re now forced to surf waves like Haleiwa, Sunset, and Pipe to qualify for the Tour organically raise their level in a few short years?
At the end of the day, none of this should even be a discussion. For one, gender equity in sport is federal law, and two, female participation in surf events does not preclude that of males.
Plus, let’s be honest: does the Volcom Pipe Pro really need 144 dicks swinging in the lineup?
Shannon said it best.
“Making space for women shouldn’t be the fall of men.”
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