Brown Girl Surf
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Brown Girl Surf exists not only to uplift and support ocean joy for our local communities, but to advocate for equitable access to the ocean and wave-riding for all.
During the first week of June 2023, our Executive Director, Adriana, attended Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) in Washington, DC on behalf of Brown Girl Surf.
“Capitol Hill Ocean Week is an annual conference attended by scientists, policymakers, scholars, businesses, and members of the public to address pressing science, conservation, and management issues. Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2023: “Ocean x Climate” will underscore the relationship between climate change and the world’s ocean, addressing the importance of understanding how climate change is negatively impacting the health of ocean ecosystems and the coastal communities that rely on them.”
Brown Girl Surf’s presence within this sphere of scientists, policymakers, non-profits, tribes, and community organizers is of the utmost importance in ensuring equitable access to ocean spaces beyond conservation and preservation. BGS is often, if not the only, organization within these conversations that is actively supporting individuals in getting in the water – and our communities’ perspectives bring invaluable insight to the table. Brown Girl Surf spoke on barriers our community faces in regularly accessing ocean recreation and the responsibility of the federal government to protect our rights to natural ocean spaces.
In addition to attending the CHOW conference, BGS was invited to attend the inaugural Ocean Justice Roundtable hosted by the White House. The Ocean Justice Roundtable was intended to
“highlight the Biden-Harris Administration’s policy progress and historic investments to advance ocean conservation and climate action.” And give attendees the space to “discuss opportunities to integrate environmental justice into ocean-based climate solutions to pave an equitable path towards climate-resilient systems, resources, communities, and infrastructure.”
What are the barriers to realizing ocean justice?
What elements, activities, and components should an Ocean Justice Strategy include?
What injustices related to the ocean could the Federal government better address?
The above are some of the questions we addressed during the roundtable. Within these conversations Brown Girl Surf believes it’s imperative that ocean justice includes, and centers, increasing access to the ocean for communities who have been historically removed and/or excluded from the coasts. In California we are lucky to be protected by the California Coastal Act, a law that guarantees that beaches are public spaces for all. However, as we have seen in instances of mismanagement and privatization, this is not always the case. The CCC have thousands of backlogged instances of violations of the California Coastal Act, but are insufficiently funded to address them all.
Brown Girl Surf believes that it is the federal government’s responsibility to fund and back state bodies like the California Coastal Commission (CCC) who protect the California Coastal Act and fight for coastal access.
California is only one of three states that have dedicated statewide equity funds, and our funding sources are victim to the volatile economy. A national equity fund, like that being promoted by Nuesta Tierra and the Outdoor FUTURES project, would go a long way to ensure that our communities have continued access to nature.
Within the Biden administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, we see several commitments to “blue spaces” through conservation and marine protected areas – however, we see very few commitments that ensure equitable access to these spaces. As we know, access to ocean recreation and ocean spaces for people of color, especially Black and Indigenous people, can bring immeasurable health benefits and provide a place for healing and joy. Brown Girl Surf will continue to advocate for federal support of equitable ocean access and hold government administrations to their word.
While in DC, Brown Girl Surf was also invited to join Upwell: A Wave of Ocean Justice, hosted by Azul, Center for American Progress, and Urban Ocean Lab. The Upwell forum was an event meant to center the voices of those historically excluded from ocean justice conversations, namely Black, Indigenous, and voices of color. These equity focused symposiums give BGS the opportunity to connect with, learn from, and ideate with like-minded organizations across the sea of ocean justice centered entities.
It’s also important to Brown Girl Surf that we continue to hear from our community directly. If you have not already shared some of your insights into community needs, barriers to access, and personal hopes for Brown Girl Surf, we invite you to take our survey! This survey will help inform how we show up to future conferences, advocacy discussions, and more and guarantee that community voices are always at the forefront of our work.
Brown Girl Surf continues to have high hopes for our future in a joyful, abundant, and inclusive surf culture and this work is intertwined with the work of so many other amazing ocean equity organizations.
Last you heard from us on the Explore the Coast grants budget cuts, legislatures had agreed to keep the item open, postponing the decision. This week we learned from California Coastal Conservancy staff that $1.6 million of the slated $2.6 million cut will be restored. Amidst state and project wide budget cuts this is a huge win for our communities!
While we achieved the partial restoration of $1.6 million we will continue advocating for full restoration of the $2.6 million as this grant project funds countless opportunities for historically excluded communities to access the coast.
When we put out a call to our siblings in this work and allies supporting the work to uphold and increase beach access, we were met with an outstanding amount of involvement. Brown Girl Surf believes we were able to advocate for change because of our collective efforts – we continue to be affirmed in our power.
We’d like to extend a special gratitude to Shelana deSilva, our Advocacy Consultant, for her continued guidance, motivation, and efforts. We share great appreciation for our funders who champion our ability to do this work. And we’d like to extend an ocean deep appreciation to all our sibling organizations who continue to uphold the morals and values that guide us – thank you for truly advocating for a beach and surf culture that is centered in access, inclusion, joy, and abundance!
New Beach Permitting System in the City of Pacifica Allows Non-Profit Groups to Access Linda Mar Beach for the First Time in 18 years
Sacramento, CA – May 12, 2023 – On May 11th, the California Coastal Commission unanimously voted to approve the passage of the City of Pacifica’s Coastal Development Permit (CDP), fully authorizing a reformed surf school permitting program at Linda Mar Beach.
For nearly two decades, the City of Pacifica operated a surf camp permitting program which granted access only to the same four for-profit surf companies, in perpetuity. Without a mechanism for the inclusion of additional groups, including non-profits who provide access for community members who have historically-faced barriers to coastal access, this system had proven to be discriminatory, exclusionary, and illegal.
To learn more about the landscape of surf permits in Pacifica and our collaborative work up until now, please visit the Advocacy page of our website.
In April 2022, this system was found to be in violation of requirements set by the Coastal Act, California’s landmark 1976 coastal protection law, and therefore suspended. According to Coastal Commission staff, previous attempts at revision of the system, including those submitted by the Pacifica State Beach Task Force in 2021, “while well- intentioned… largely mimic its previous program,” and “actually create[d] additional obstacles and barriers for non-profit groups attempting to access the coast at Pacifica State Beach, representing a barrier to equitable access, and raising Coastal Act public access and environmental justice concerns.”
May 11th’s historic vote now allows for the City of Pacifica to resume management of surf camp operations at Linda Mar Beach, under specific conditions that guarantee a new, more equitable system. This new system will include:
- Equal number of participant spots between for-profit surf camp operators and non-profit organizations
- Equal access to times, dates, and location of operation at the beach for for-profit surf camp operators and non-profit organizations
- Reduced registration fees for non-profit groups
- Simplified registration procedures
- Expanded area of use, thus increasing the amount of potential participants of all group types
- Collective agreement to adhere to community surf agreements to ensure all groups feel welcome and safe at the beach. Each registered group will have to abide by the community surfing agreement in order run programs at Pacifica State Beach
- An annual review of the process to allow for changes to be made to adapt to any issues that may arise
Troy Bohanon, Surf Instructor of City Surf Project views the passage of the CDP as essential for communities today and in the future. He states: “…the youth are tomorrow, our leaders of tomorrow, and they should be allowed to be at the beach just as much as anyone else, regardless of their monetary backgrounds, their personal racial backgrounds, and there’s nothing like breaking-down barriers in a line-up, and sharing waves with people that don’t look like you, or may not be from the same neighborhoods or zip codes as you. I personally believe that surfing is for everyone, and the beaches should be for everyone as well.” Organizations that create these safe spaces for youth to show up as themselves are essential in bridging the nature gap for many historically excluded communities.
Kevin Woodhouse, City Manager for the City of Pacifica, stated: “Development of this program began in 2020 by a collaborative group of stakeholders including city staff, the city’s Parks, Beaches, and Recreation Commission, non-profit surf camp providers, commercial surf camp providers in Pacifica, and others. A task force of these stakeholders worked tirelessly on this program to benefit all and balance critical safety, access, and operational factors. It should be celebrated by all involved in its development and upcoming implementation.”
Attitudes of the Commissioners were supportive and multiple Commissioners commented that this is not the first time they’ve heard of this “locals only” issue, and suggested staff work on model guidelines that could inform practices statewide. Sonia Diaz, Public Policy Manager for Outdoor Outreach, stated, “…in San Diego there exists a patchwork of permit processes across different land managers that create a system that favors commercial for-profit entities over nonprofits like ours. For example, some of the permits have blackout dates on certain days of the week, especially on summer weekends (while for-profit schools don’t face those barriers). We often have to seek out less desirable places that are less restrictive. This really impacts the quality of our programs and the ability to bring more of our youth to enjoy the benefits of our coast.”
The work being done in Pacifica is setting a precedent for the rest of California where many nonprofits and community organizations have faced similar permitting exclusion. Commissioner Effie Turnball-Sanders questioned if there is an opportunity in the future to do an environmental justice forum or convening to collect the stories and bring greater attention to these statewide inequalities.
The motion to approve Pacifica’s CDP with the reformed surf school permitting system came from Commissioner and Santa Cruz County Supervisor Justin Cummings, and was seconded by Commissioner and Mayor of Imperial Beach, Paloma Aguirre. While the motion to approve the CDP puts the City of Pacifica on the right track, there is still room for growth. Commissioner Turnball-Sanders stated, “My concern is that if there is a Coastal Act violation, particularly as it relates to public access, I’m not sure this goes far enough.” Suggestions for continued repair included free-parking passes for non-profits and lower cost or no cost permit applications. These additions to a CDP have the potential to be applied throughout California to increase access for the several other organizations facing similar barriers.
After passage of the CDP, Adrianna Guerrero-Nardone, Executive Director of Brown Girl Surf remarked, “this is a historical moment for our organization and our community, and is something we’ve been waiting for a very long time. The decision is validating and affirming that we belong, that we’ve always belonged.”
We hope, and anticipate, that the California Coastal Commission will further discuss the statewide impact of this decision. Whether it be with official guidance for local land managers, a California convening for beach equity, or beyond, we hope that the work for Pacifica State Beach equity sets the tone for the beach access and equity shifts to come.
For media inquiries, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Born in California, raised mostly in Japan and Europe, the ocean and nature was always a source of refuge and grounding for her as someone who grew up as a mixed-race, ethnically ambiguous and often culturally “confused” human. Madoka comes to Brown Girl Surf with a decade of experience in nonprofit organizing and development. She also had stints of working as a full time yoga / mindfulness / sex-ed teacher for high schools across the Bay Area, followed by a chapter of being a full time gardener for some time. Madoka earned her B.A in Comparative Literature at Chapman University – her apartment table is full of books she is reading simultaneously. She is a passionate advocate for decolonizing the wellness world, creating more access to movement for those who are limited in mobility and/or access to embodiment and somatic practices of healing – which includes surfing! On her days off, you can find Madoka floating, swimming or surfing in the ocean or completely covered in soil while tending to her back yard.
Access to oceans and coastal nature spaces as places of healing, joy, and freedom are paramount to the health and wellbeing of our communities. That is why it’s so important that the Brown Girl Surf community continues to work towards beach equity on all fronts. Below are two updates on recent advocacy work related to equity at the beach.
Last you heard from us, Linda Mar Beach was open to all members of the public, no permit required. Read last year’s update to catch up on the approval of the Community Access Partnership Program (CAPP), and to learn about the violation of equitable access guidelines set by the California Coastal Act that led to the suspension of the antiquated beach permitting system at Linda Mar.
Since then, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) has continued to make it clear that the CAPP recommendations, while a great first step, did not go far enough to prioritize equity and true access to the beach, as detailed in this SF Chronicle article. While compromises were made in creating the new CAPP, including prioritizing for-profit commercial surf schools over non-profit programs, Brown Girl Surf is thankful to the Commission and CCC staff for the many hours of hard work that got us to this point. We look forward to continuing to improve access at Linda Mar.
Excitingly, the Coastal Commission staff has just released their recommendations for a more equitable surf school permitting system, and are planning to vote on the issue at their next monthly meeting on Thursday, May 11th! We know that the outcome of this vote will set a precedent for the entire state. Many non-profit groups along the coast face similar challenges with outdated permitting systems that further the exclusion of groups that have historically lacked access to the coast. And this is why we need your support!
Key Recommendations from the CCC staff:
- Permit system does not prioritize for-profits/commercial schools over non-profits/community-based organizations in terms of scheduling, location, number of spaces, and length of time allowed on beach
- Permit system does not create additional administrative, financial, or logistical barriers for non-profits/community-based organizations
- All surf schools and organizations are required to sign and adhere to community agreements as part of the effort to create a more inclusive and welcoming surf culture
Things BGS community can do:
- Sign our petition, urging the Coastal Commissioners to approve Pacifica’s CDP application, which includes the Coastal Commission’s recommendations for a new, more equitable surf permitting system
- Come with BGS to Sacramento! – We want our physical presence to be felt at the hearing, and would love to have you join us! No speaking required, but let us know if you’d like to join us by filling out this google form before May 10th
- You may also give a public comment at the hearing (in person or virtually)
- Or provide written testimony directly to the California Coastal Commission before May 5th at 5pm
- More instructions on how to get engaged via our google form
We strongly believe that the City of Pacifica will be on board with the Coastal Commission’s recommendations. Should the recommendations be accepted, the new system will go into effect at Linda Mar this summer.
The California Coastal Conservancy’s ability to support communities that have been systematically excluded from accessing the coast is at risk. This risk comes from the Governor’s California State Budget proposal for 2023, which seeks to cut $2.6 million in Explore the Coast grant funding – potentially impacting dozens of equity centered organizations. Brown Girl Surf believes that adequate and reliable funding for equity based coastal access work is integral to delivering culturally responsive, healing, and relevant beach programming. We will continue to speak up and organize against actions that threaten this work.
What is the issue?
- Governor Newsom has proposed to revert $2.6 million from the Explore the Coast (ETC) program to the CA General Fund with no proposal for alternative funding or support to ETC
- ETC funding cuts are proposed in attempt to fill $22.5 billion deficit in CA budget – revoking the $2.6 million allotted to ETC will have little to no impact on relieving the General Fund and doing so will perpetuate disconnection to nature
What is Explore the Coast?
- The State Coastal Conservancy’s Explore the Coast (ETC) grant program provides grants to public agencies, federally-recognized Tribes and Indigenous communities, and nonprofit organizations for programs that facilitate and enhance the public’s opportunities to explore California’s spectacular coast and San Francisco Bay shoreline.
- As one of a handful of equity-focused state grant programs, Explore the Coast (ETC) has granted more than $18 million to organizations, Tribes, and agencies who work directly with communities facing barriers to coastal access.
- In addition to redressing harms such as inadequate access to nature, community disinvestment, and disproportionate climate impacts, the ETC program also educates and inspires the coastal stewards of our future.
What impact will cutting funding have?
- These funds directly support programs like Brown Girl Surf and others who work to dismantle systemic barriers to coastal access. Restricting and removing this funding will limit the organizations that already receive financial support from ETC and impede other organizations from being allotted funding to continue programming that is essential to environmental and social justice along the California Coast
- Since 2013, the Conservancy has awarded over $18.2 million in 296 separate Explore the Coast grants (updated October 2022).
- The organizations impacted by this cut are working with a majority of communities who have been historically excluded from ocean joy and healing. This cut will further ostracize those with the least access. *ETC Priority Communities include but are not limited to lower-income individuals and households, people with disabilities, people of color, LGBTQ+ communities, immigrant communities, and foster youth, among others.
Why are we advising against the budget cut?
- Equitable access advocates need reliable, sustained sources of funding to continue connecting people to nature and breaking down barriers to access. The ETC program has always granted all of its appropriated funding, and losing such a significant portion of its funding now will stymie partnerships and momentum.
- Equitable access to California’s beautiful coastline aligns with the Governor’s Outdoors4All Initiative, and the ETC program stands alone in its focus to bring systematically excluded communities to the coast and San Francisco Bay Shoreline to participate in joyful, educational stewardship activities and programs.
- Given the climate disasters and ongoing inequities our youth and communities face, taking back committed funds from a program that connects thousands of systematically excluded community members to nature each year is unacceptable.
How can you support our efforts?
The Senate and Assembly Budget subcommittees will be discussing Explore the Coast cuts THIS WEEK, on both Wednesday March 1st and Thursday March 2nd. We understand that this information has a tight deadline so we are only inviting you to do what feels feasible. Every effort helps, here are a few ways to influence these discussions:
1. Call-in to provide public comment about ETC and the impact its had on your experience accessing the coast. BGS will be listening in to both of the meetings, and can notify you when the public comment period is set to begin so you don’t have to wait on hold for too long. We’re told it will start around 12:30pm both 3/1 and 3/2, but depending how long discussion goes, it could be a few hours on either side of this.
- March 1, 2023 Public Comment Line: 877-692-8957 / Access Code: 131 54 47
- March 2, 2023 Public Testimony: Phone Number: 877-226-8216 Access Code: 6785618
2. Submit written testimony in advance of the hearings. Write your legislators and let them know how important the Explore the Coast program has been for you!
- Senate Subcommittee No. 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection and Energy – email@example.com, cc’ing firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
- Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Climate Crisis, Resources, Energy, and Transportation – BudgetSub3@asm.ca.gov
3. Join BGS in calling offices of the Senate and Assembly Budget Chairs, Senator Skinner: (916) 651-4009 and Assemblymember Ting: (916) 319-2019 and the Governor: The Office of the Governor, Deputy Legislative Secretary, Hazel Miranda, who covers environmental issues at (916) 445-4341.
If you’re interested in engaging in any of these ways, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can support you.
Sydney was born in Chicago and grew up in Orange County! She spent most of my summers in Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley visiting family members that have been scattered across the bay area. While Sydney has been standup
paddleboarding for many years with her dad, she fell in love with surfing in particular while in high school after “borrowing” a cousin’s surfboard. In addition to sharing the joy and healing of being in and around the ocean with others, Sydney am also passionate about the study of economics. She specifically loves learning about how markets impact environmental and human health. Sydney studied just that at Saddleback Community College and UC Berkeley! When not studying or surfing, you can find her playing guitar (she loves playing jazz, jammin’ to the blues, and anything by the Red Hot Chili Peppers), going to live shows (especially music and stand-up comedy), and riding her bike!
Naomi is a proud Chinese Indonesian American, born in Singapore but raised in California. She has always found the ocean as a healing&grounding space, and lends her love for the sea to her parents (who also find themselves in the ocean). Naomi completed her B.S. in Graphic Communications at Cal Poly SLO and soon after, moved to Cambodia to work in anti-trafficking for a few years. She moved back to the states in 2022, and has now landed in Ohlone Land/San Francisco! In addition to the party waves and swimming in any body of water, Naomi is passionate about art forms met with ethical storytelling and social justice . You can find her smiling on a board in the ocean, taking walks with tea in hand, or jamming with her guitar and piano.
Growing up in the valleys of Tovaangar (Los Angeles Basin), Tricia relished every rare opportunity to touch the ocean on school field trips and boogie board during annual family beach camping trips. Access to the ocean expanded for her when she was a dance/theater arts student at UCSC (unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe), then later when she moved to Ohlone land (SF/ Oakland BayArea) to pursue work in the arts. Almost two decades later, she and her daughter participated in a BGS community event that opened up the world of surfing for them. She is grateful to have this space to develop as a wave rider, support increased access to surfing, and feel the joy of community connection at the ocean.
Her work with youth and families in various organizations is driven by her desire to support the cultivation of healthier lives through connection to land, water, and culture. She is a member of the healing advisory for Filipino Advocates for Justice, a bodyworker at Kokko Wellness, and an artist/facilitator with the Agasan project.