Dec. 8, 2020

Women surfers will finally have permit parity if gender equity in sports bill passes tomorrow

HONOLULU, HAWAI‘I — The City and County of Honolulu will no longer be allowed to exclude female surf competitions during prime winter conditions on the North Shore if Bill 10 passes final reading Wednesday at the Honolulu City Council.

Bill 10 ensures equity for women in all sports that require city permits. For almost a decade, the city has only approved permits for male surf competitions during prime North Shore surf season, despite requests from female contest leaders for equity.

As a result, professional female surfers came to the City Council in early 2020 to protest that women were being shut out of surf competitions. After experiencing similar discrimination as a female athlete, Councilmember Kym Pine knew what they were going through. She and her parents fought for the right for her to try out for the Mānoa Little League, after being rejected simply on the basis of her gender. She dressed up as a boy to try out and was the only player from her team chosen for the All-Star Team, which came in third in the state championships.

“What has happened for a decade is unacceptable. Many of the best female surfers in the world have been denied equal access,” said Pine, who authored the bill. “As far as I am concerned, women have been discriminated against and I am proud to say that no matter what sport you are in, women will never be mistreated by the city again.”

Hawai‘i, widely considered the birthplace of surfing, once held major qualifying events for female surf competitions on O‘ahu’s North Shore. But permit approvals stopped ten years ago, allowing for only male competitions. Novice female surfers who seek to qualify for international rankings must travel elsewhere for qualifying events, an expensive proposition.

“When I started surfing, I was able to fly over to O‘ahu to qualify for the Triple Crown. Now, women have been excluded from all competition,” said pro surfer, actor and DJ Keala Kennelly. “I was part of the Commission for Equity in Women’s Surfing. We were able to achieve pay parity, but if there is no competition, it’s like getting a raise and then getting laid off. This is about equal opportunity for women; we aren’t getting equal opportunity.”

“Considering the few opportunities women surfers in particular have in Hawai‘i to be professional athletes, that is a big a reason why we need Bill 10 to pass. Even though gender equity is a federal law – it is not practiced here,” said “Banzai” Betty Depolito, renowned local surfer, photographer and surf event organizer. She added that women’s competitions have only received permits for beaches with substandard surf, while men’s events enjoy the best waves at the best beaches.

“Bill 10 will bring Honolulu in line with the rest of the country by mandating that women have the same access as men. This is way overdue,” said Pine, noting that surfing will debut in the next Olympics. “We have some of the best women surfers in the world, who learned to surf at Banzai and Pipeline. Their talent deserves recognition, just as much as men.”

Bill 10, which has overwhelming support, will be on the City Council’s Dec. 9 agenda.
Thanks are due to City Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi, representing the North Shore, for bringing this to the City Council’s attention.

Bill 10 is on Page 16 of the Dec. 9 Honolulu City Council agenda.

Councilmember Kym Pine represents residents of District One, comprising portions of ‘Ewa Villages and ‘Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Makakilo, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Ko ‘Olina, Nānākuli, Mā‘ili, Wai‘anae, Mākaha, Kea‘au and Makua) and is chair of the City Council’s Committee on Business Economic Development and Tourism.

Councilmember Kym Pine represents residents of District One (ʻEwa, ʻEwa Beach, Kapolei, Honokai Hale, Ko ʻOlina, Nānākuli, Mā‘ili, Wai‘anae, Mākaha, Kea‘au, Mākua) and is chair of the City Council’s Committee on Business Economic Development and Tourism.

Media Contacts:

Victoria Talbot
victoria [dot] talbot honolulu [dot] gov

Erika Engle
Communications Director
erika [dot] engle honolulu [dot] gov