Surfer on Linda Mar Beach

Groups of surfers enter and exit the water at Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica. Equity and access to the surf spot are on the minds of a new task force in Pacifica. Adam Pardee / Tribune

There is an effort to work out a more diverse and equitable access to surfing in Pacifica’s surf camps underway. The city’s Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission has formed a Surf Camp/School Policy Advisory Task Force and charged it with making room in the lineup for everyone.

That task force concluded its first meeting Feb. 16. The goal is to study equity issues in the sport and to collect and analyze information that will lead to recommended changes in a policy that some say favors established camps over those with a specific diversity mission.

“For safety reasons, a limited number of surf camps/ school operators have been granted annual permits,” wrote Cindy Abbott, a PB&R commissioner on the Surf Camp Task Force in an email to the Review. “Historically there hasn’t been availability for new organizations, nonprofit or otherwise, to enter this space as the current operators have been interested in continuing each year.

“The PB&R Commission, while having approved a pilot Community Access Partner Permit program for two nonprofit organizations with missions to bring more diversity and equitable access to the ocean and surfing, recognized the value and need to review the overall program versus a limited approach of adding the CAPP program only.”

PB&R approved such permits to be held jointly by Brown Girls Surf and City Surf Project. The permits are good through December, wrote Mike Perez, director of PB&R in a staff report.

Brown Girl Surf is an Oakland-based organization working to build a more diverse, environmentally minded and joyful women’s surf culture by increasing access to surfing. It also seeks to cultivate community and amplify the voices of women of color, according to its mission statement. City Surf Project promotes healthy living, personal growth, appreciation for nature and equity in surfing and is based in San Francisco.

City Council received 30 emails and heard from 13 speakers who said the permitting process makes it difficult for nonprofits like Brown Girls Surf and City Surf Project to apply for a surf camp permit, wrote Perez in his staff report for that June 22 meeting. The process to handle those requests up until now has been to put those groups on a waitlist.

Instead of the automatic renewal to all permitted surf camps, the task force is considering a new permitting process to reach underrepresented groups. An agreed upon maximum number of such permits is being studied as well.

To apply for a CAPP, an organization will likely have to be a nonprofit. In addition, the organization must have expertise in providing surf programs to low income or underrepresented groups who face obstacles, such as cost, transportation, disenfranchisement or general lack of public access to the beach.

The task force meets March 16 to discuss potential changes to beach use.

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