Thursday, April 10, 2008

Surfer Girls Catch a Political Wave

According to Betty DePolito, aka Banzai Betty, women's surfing advocate and legendary surfer based on Oahu's North Shore, women's surfing is on the rise. In fact, she figures that the split between the genders within the sport of surfing is 60% women/40% men, yet the men's events continue to dominate the industry, and it's difficult for the women to get permits for "women only" surf events held in Hawaii.

Rep. Mike Magaoay, who represents the North Shore, paddled out to help. Even though the permitting for surf and shore water events is a City and County issue, Rep. Magaoay introduced HCR278 to help the women bring their concerns before the legislature, if only to create greater awareness and get a dialog going with City officials. The resolution was before the House Tourism and Culture committee this morning.
The City has a tough job. They must balance the needs of the surfing events, the recreational surfers, and the impacted community. They are forthright in explaining that City rules and regs allow for a maximum of 16 shore water events on each site of the North Shore per year. There is a holding period not to exceed 15 days, and a cooling off period of at least 10 days between meets. In addition, the evaluation of the permit requests includes the consideration of opportunities for women, a variety of ages, and a range of skill levels. Needless to say, about 50% of the requests for events cannot be accommodated.

After questioning, it appears that the problem has nothing to do with any discrimination within the city's permit process. The problem is more that event promoters often say they are including a women's component within the tournament and then fail to do so. Plus, there are only so many permits granted per year. The bottom line is that there were no professional women's surfing events on the North Shore this year, including the Women's Pipeline.

Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who inspired all of Hawaii after surviving a shark attack, losing her left arm, and having the courage to get back in the water to compete, offered the following testimony:

To whom it may concern:

I really hope to be able to compete at Pipeline again - just the girls. It's one of the best waves and all of us girls have been honored to have the spot to ourselves for those few years that the contest was on...something that pretty much every surfer dreams of. I can speak for the other girls too in saying that we love surfing and competing at Pipe!

Bethany Hamilton, #2 on Girls ASP Tour at Present, World Tour.

Tourism and Culture Vice Chair, Rep. Joey Manahan, and Chair Ryan Yamane, deferred the measure because it is a City and County issue, and it appears through the discussion that the City Parks and Recreation and the surfing community have a good working relationship. Greater consideration must be taken for women's only events, and a greater understanding is needed on how the women's components are built into the men's events; those two points were made and the parties will continue to work on a schedule sensitive to gender equality.

Chair Yamane thanks his committee
Prior to decision making, Chair Yamane took the time to thank his committee for their hard work and support during the past two years. As a first time chair, he appreciated the opportunity to chair Tourism and Culture, and was grateful for having former Chair, Rep. Jerry Chang, on the committee for institutional knowledge and guidance. He also thanked the two Republican members of the committee for their cooperation. It was the last time the committee would meet during this session, as next week is the start of the Conference period.

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