Is Gender Discrimination in Surfing on the Islands of Hawaii Alive & Well?

With over 20 surf contests for men on the North Shore of Oahu and less than 5 including women, gender discrimination is arguably alive and well on the Islands of Hawaii and beyond.


Last Wednesday, the North Shore of Oahu’s representative, Heidi Tsuneyoshi, submitted a resolution to the Honolulu city council that would require all surf competitions in the North Shore to end gender discrimination. Surf competitions require permits to run. These permits are generally issued by the parks and recreation departments and/or other governing departments regulating waterway usage. These departments already have regulations in place that say a permit shall not be granted if the requesting organization is in violation of any county, state, or federal law.

Well guess what? In the state of Hawaii, gender discrimination is ILLEGAL. 


Bianca Valenti
Big wave surfer Bianca Valenti is one of the pioneers of the Equal Pay movement



Are we STILL dealing with gender discrimination?

How can this even be a thing anymore? We’ve been through #MeToo and women’s marches. We’ve seen Keala Kennelly be invited to the Eddie Aikau – Hawaii’s most prestigious surfing contest. The WSL passed equal pay in 2018. But the WSL still holds fewer competitions on their leading Championship Tour (CT), for women than they do for the men.

Professional women surfers have less opportunity to earn. A group of CT and Qualifying Series (QS) surfers expressed interest in being able to surf in the Pipeline Masters, the final men’s event of the season. But as of the close of the 2019 season, only men were given a chance to compete. 

Then there is the “Queen of the Bay” event. A women’s only big wave competition at Waimea bay which has never run because the event permit is laughably outside of the swell window with only a statistical 2% chance of ever having swell large enough to run. Or how about the Wahine Pipepro which is held at the end of march – Again, way outside the swell window. 


Caroline Marks
Caroline Marks will be one of the first female surfing Olympians. An equal number of men and women are required per the Olympic committee. Photo:WSL



What’s going on?

A lot of women are asking this same question. That’s why a group of them plan to attend the Honolulu city council meeting on January 21st, 2020 to speak out asking for change. It’s not only illegal, but it’s also an awful message to send to young girls. “You can surf but just not ‘for real’ like the boys.”  Reminds me of the expectation I was given as a young girl to go to college but not to take it too seriously, just to find a husband. 


Raquel Heckart Getting Barreled
Raquel Heckart thieves on left-handed barrels and has expressed the desire to surf “real” Pipe. Photo: Longerina



Speak Up

You can speak out if this matters to you. You have a voice. The WSL has a brand new CEO, Erik Logan. Why not drop him a note to let him know how you feel about fewer events for women than for men (scroll down to “feedback”). If you’d like to write directly to the Honolulu City Council you may do so here before January 21st, 2020. Your statement will be read at the meeting and televised. You can also attend the meeting if you live locally on Oahu. Don’t forget to take to social media and let other women know this is an issue.

Share this story. Nothing changes if we don’t let those that make the rules know we want to see a change.

Cover Image Via Surf Girl. Surfer Carissa Moore.

I am a writer and wanna-be big wave surfer. Surfing is my muse. I write about it and how it’s teaching me to live better. I hold certification as a nutritionist, personal trainer, yoga instructor, and lifeguard instructor. My story “100 Days in Mexico” of how a solo road trip surfing my way through Mexico changed my life can be found here


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