Anastasia was born and raised on Ohlone Land/San Francisco, and joins the Brown Girl Surf team with an immense love for playing in the ocean. She is the happiest when she is snuggling her fur babies, catching a wave, or eating a pickle. Anastasia was first introduced to surfing by her parent, but most recently fell in love with it when she was obtaining her B.A. in Communications at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Playing in the water, sitting on the beach, or immersing her body in water gives her a sense of grounding, calmness, and a moment of peace in our chaotic world.
Brown Girl Surf
Posts by Sutara Nitenson:
Stephanie is passionate about the intersection of the environment and health, and joins Brown Girl Surf after working as a physician, documentary filmmaker, and communications specialist in West Africa, the Middle East, and the United States. She holds degrees in social welfare, population health, and medicine from UC Berkeley and Brown University, and has studied at Harvard University and the UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art. When not advocating for more equitable ocean access, Stephanie works as a clinician and advocate for reproductive rights and homeless health. Her pastimes include listening to music too loud, watching boring documentaries, and finding any excuse to get in the water.
Sutara is a water child at heart and has a passion for building healthy relationships between humans and the sea. Sutara completed their B.A. in Environmental Studies at UCSB with a research focus on sustainable aquaculture and has a certificate in Marine Diving Technologies. They are interested in ocean food systems, increasing access to sustainable seafoods, and the ocean as a means to empowerment! Sutara has worked as a research assistant on projects surrounding sustainable shellfish aquaculture, human rights in the seafood industry, and social responsibility in seafood supply chains. They also had a brief stint working as a maintenance technician on an oyster farm! Sutara can most commonly be found with a surfboard too big to fit under their arm, sharing snacks at the beach, or working on some creative endeavor involving trash and art.
Marlim is an avid surfer who has competed in national surf contests in her home country, the Dominican Republic. Following her completion of the International Surfing Association Level I Surf Instructor program in March 2017, she joined the surf instructor volunteer crew at Brown Girl Surf. Her experiences as a female surfer in the Dominican Republic and as a Latina in the U.S. fuel her dedication to empowering women of color through outdoor recreation. Marlim loves music and arts and is trained in opera and classical vocal performance. She holds a degree in French Studies from Chapman University with a minor in Music. She resides in Huchiun/Oakland, CA, and you can find her prancing around in nature or humming tunes in between sets of waves.
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.
Farhana is an award-winning, visionary, social entrepreneur and professional coach. She’s done everything from being a member of the U.S. National Karate team in her youth, to creating educational soap operas to help low-income immigrant women start their own businesses in America. She began volunteering when she was 14, and eventually worked on issues of homelessness and housing, dance arts programs for youth and anti-war activism for Congo.
At the age of 24, she founded C.E.O. Women, a non-profit dedicated to helping low-income immigrant and refugee women become entrepreneurs. Farhana ran the organization for 11 years and helped over 2,000 women in the process. In 2008 she founded Bay Area Friends of the Congo, an all volunteer group led currently by Congolese-American activists, dedicated to raising awareness and ending the mineral conflict in Congo. She went on to start Brown Girl Surf in 2011. Currently she runs Surf Life Executive Coaching TM, where she coaches game changing leaders and entrepreneurs towards a business and life they love using a creative mix of applied neuroscience, surfing, walking and coaching. In early 2016 she stepped away from being Executive Director of Brown Girl Surf and now acts as an advisor and volunteer for the organization.
Farhana loves to dance and drum, and is trained in the North Indian classical and Tahitian Ori traditions. She also has a natural wanderlust, and has traveled to almost 40 countries. Her travels, commitment to the empowerment of women and girls, and her love for surf, art, dance and the planet inspired the vision for Brown Girl Surf TM. Farhana resides in Huchiun/Oakland, California and enjoys surfing all types of waves on California’s Northern and Central coasts.
To learn more about Farhana and her other work, visit her personal website: www.farhanahuq.com.
UPDATE: A resolution has been made! Check out our “Resolution Summary” below to learn about the most recent success – the APPROVAL of the CAPP proposal.
While we can take a moment to rest, the journey is not over. Brown Girl Surf is continuing to work with the City of Pacifica, the California Coastal Commission, and our allies as the CAPP and all systems supporting it are implemented in Pacifica over the next year. We will continue to expand this path to equity for future groups and organizations wishing to share the ocean with their community.
What has been the resolution?
The Community Access Partnership Permit (CAPP) has been unanimously approved and passed by the Pacifica City Council, the Pacifica Parks, Beaches, and Recreation Commission, and the Surf Camp/School Policy Advisory Task Force. Furthermore, Brown Girl Surf and City Surf Project have both been approved for a continuation of our pilot CAPP permits through 2022.
Brown Girl Surf and City Surf Project see the approval of the CAPP program as one success along a path of many as we work towards equitable beach access for all. We will continue to work with the City of Pacifica to create an equitable Request for Proposal (RFP) process for future CAPP and commercial surf camp/school applicants and advise the City of Pacifica during the implementation of all systems, boards, and policies that will support and uphold the CAPP. In the meantime, BGS and City Surf Project will continue to operate on Linda Mar Beach under the second phase of our CAPP pilot program.
Additionally, the City of Pacifica has been in communication with the California Coastal Commission (CCC) and filed an application for a Coastal Development Plan. The City of Pacifica is currently awaiting approval of their application.
How did we get here?
- August 17th, 2021 : Surf Camp Task Force members voted on attributes of the CAPP proposal and other components of a surf camp/school policy – The CAPP proposal is unanimously approved by the Task Force
- October 12th, 2021 : A “Program Recommendations” document is created to share the Task Force’s recommendations to the Parks, Beaches, and Recreation Commission regarding the CAPP proposal
- October 27th, 2021 : Program Recommendations were presented to the PBRC by Mike Perez of the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Department, Johnny Irwin of City Surf Project and Cliff Hodges of Adventure Out – The CAPP and Program Recommendations are unanimously approved by the PBRC
- January 10th, 2022: The City of Pacifica held a public city council meeting in which council members had the opportunity to learn about the CAPP proposal and the Surf Task Force’s recommendations, and vote on its approval. At this meeting, community members and allies spoke during the public comment period or sent in letters of support, sharing their personal experiences at Linda Mar Beach.
“Equitable access to nature is absolutely critical always, but especially now as COVID further compounds the historic exclusion of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) from parks, open space, and coastal resources. All Californians rely on safe access to nature, now more than ever.
Nonprofit organizations and school-based programs with proven track records of bringing BIPOC folks to the ocean through culturally relevant, thoughtfully designed programs, are the best resource to ensure equitable community connection to nature” – Shelana DeSilva, BGS community member
These personal share outs emphasized the importance of a safe and inclusive surf culture, and a city’s role in upholding policies and practices that encourage and uplift that culture.
Ultimately, the City of Pacifica council members unanimously voted to create the CAPP program and integrate more equitable policies for surf camps/schools on Linda Mar Beach moving forward.
The work to achieve these successful policy shifts has not been quick, nor simple, but the support we’ve encountered and built along the way has been monumental. We’d like to thank Black Girls Surf for their call to action and to CSP who organized the 2020 Paddle out for Peace where Brown Girl Surf was able to share the inequitable policies of the very beach the paddle out was held at. Being able to publicly share the impacts of inequitable and exclusionary policy informed many and encouraged community members and allies to act, thus leading the City of Pacifica to create the Task Force.
We’d also like to acknowledge
- City Surf Project once again, for always standing by our side, speaking up, and showing up
- Outdoor Outreach for being thought partners in the work and creating the conceptual framework for the CAPP
- California Surfrider and the San Mateo Chapter of Surfrider for their continual support and allyship
- The City of Pacifica, the Pacifica Parks Beaches and Recreation Commission, and the Task Force on Surf Camp Policy for their dedication to equity
- Our community partners at Parks Now Coalition who supported the development and creation of the CAPP
- The California Coastal Commission and the California State Coastal Conservancy for the work they’ve done in creating and upholding equitable coastal policy
- Our many community members and allies who showed up over the course of a year and a half to offer testimonials and public comment in support of the CAPP program. We appreciate you!
As we continue to work towards creating equitable beach access, we want to emphasize the importance of supporting other groups who are also leading surf programs, and/or lessons to increase equity and inclusion in the line up.
Organizations lead by BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and non-dominant culture groups that are working on the California coast to further beach access and provide surf programs/lessons include:
- Native Like Water : Bay Area/Global
- Queer Surf : Bay Area/SoCal
- Black Surf Club Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz
- Black Girls Surf: Santa Cruz/Global
- The Wahine Project : Monterey
- The Sea League : Santa Barbara
- Color the Water : Los Angeles
- Sofly Surf School : Los Angeles
If you are also doing work or have recommendations/suggestions of groups who are actively running programs/lessons please feel free to reach out to us.
“[the CAPP proposal] was a remarkable example of the power of people working across different perspectives to solve an important problem. I am deeply grateful to all who participated… I believe that the CAPP system and the adjustments to the existing Surf Permit system being recommended today are the best path forward for creating an equitable permitting system that is fair and keeps everyone safe. Brown Girl Surf and City Surf Project did this not just for our own access, but to make sure there was a system in place for other groups who are engaging folks who have been underrepresented in surfing… the policy recommended today is a HUGE step in the right direction and puts in place some really important systems to make this possible.” – Mira Manickam Shirley, Co-founder and former Executive Director of BGS, and a driving force behind this work
“Pacifica has taken the opportunity to lead the way on the California Coast for demonstrating a permit system that truly promotes equity in surfing.”
Adriana comes to Brown Girl Surf with over 13 years of experience in education and youth development. A common thread that weaves Adriana’s professional aspirations and beliefs together is her pursuit of social justice with a youth development-lens and community-based approach. Over the last decade, Adriana has worked in a variety of capacities in the nonprofit sector across the globe with communities ranging in their socioeconomic, cultural, and language backgrounds. Outside of work, Adriana has served on the leadership team for Women’s March Oakland and currently serves as the Secretary on the Board of Directors at Camp Phoenix, and the Alpha Chi Omega Chapter Advisor at UC Berkeley. Adriana holds a B.A in Psychology from Arizona State University and a Master’s in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco. Adriana resides in Huchiun/Oakland with her partner and their dogs, Nova & Roux.
DUE TO RESTRICTIVE AND EXCLUSIONARY PERMITTING PROCESSES, MANY NONPROFITS THAT SERVE UNDERREPRESENTED COMMUNITIES ARE NOT ABLE TO OPERATE AT SEVERAL STATE BEACHES THROUGHOUT CALIFORNIA. SINCE 2018, BGS HAS BEEN WORKING AT THE CITY AND STATE LEVEL TO INFLUENCE LAND MANAGERS TO CONSIDER EQUITABLE ACCESS IN PERMITTING SYSTEMS.
At Pacifica State Beach (Linda Mar Beach) nonprofits and community organizations have historically been excluded from operating on Pacifica State Beach because of an outdated and restrictive permitting system. After the outpour of support gathered at the 2020 Pacifica Peace Paddle Out, the City of Pacifica formed a Surf Camp Special Task Force to discuss the creation of an equitable permitting system. Brown Girl Surf, along with City Surf, proposed the Community Access Permit Partnership (CAPP) to increase beach access for historically excluded communities.
Click here to view our CAPP Proposal.
Check out our “What’s Happening in Pacifica” summary below to learn about the waves of change that we and allies have made in Pacifica so far and why it is important to racial equity.
(last updated November 2021, please see Resolution Summary for the most recent updates on our work in Pacifica)
In our ongoing efforts towards decolonization Brown Girl Surf acknowledges that we are occupying unceded and stolen Lisjan Ohlone lands. The work we are doing in Pacifica is on the land of the Aramai tribe of the Raymaytush Ohlone peoples.
With this acknowledgment, we pay our respect to our Indigenous elders – past, present, and future – and hope to help heal colonial traumas and create a path for joy.
As we continue our work, we recognize that this land acknowledgment is merely the first step in our decolonization path and push ourselves to turn acknowledgment into action. To learn more about Indigenous healing and land rematriation please visit Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.
What is “surf equity”?
Brown Girl Surf (BGS) defines surf equity as the inclusion of all peoples, regardless of background and/or identity, in the surfing community with the special emphasis on making sure those who have been historically excluded from accessing the coast, beaches, and surfing, have equitable access to these resources. Surf equity means that the communities who have had limited access to surfing – namely Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPoC) folks – due to systemic racism and other oppressive factors, are prioritized in a new system that breaks down the systemic barriers to surfing. Surf equity does not mean the exclusion of those who have historically monopolized beach access, but rather a creation of a community where there are no barriers for anyone to enjoy the ocean and its resources.
It has been proven undoubtedly that access to nature, especially to the coast is crucial in mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Surf equity is important not only to right historical exclusion, but to provide a path forward for everyone to find joy and benefit from the ocean.
Who will benefit from surf equity?
EVERYONE! Equity means that all folks receive the support, care, and resources needed to reach their full joyous potential. BIPoC individuals, especially BIPoC women, girls, and gender-expansive folks currently need to be prioritized because of their historical oppression and exclusion from coastal resources. The prioritization of marginalized folks may look like, but not limited to:
- Lowering monetary barriers to access
- Creating more points of entry into surfing
- Providing reparations
- Providing additional resources such as affinity groups and organizations where folks can feel safe and supported
- Inclusion in decision making, planning, and permitting processes and/or public apologies and admittance of harmful actions
Why focus on Pacifica?
Linda Mar Beach, also known as Pacifica State Beach, has been the focal point for Brown Girl Surf’s and City Surf Project’s (CSP), along with our allies’, fight for equitable beach access. For the last 17 years, Linda Mar Beach has had a permitting system for surf schools and camps that actively excluded folks from accessing coastal resources.
How have people been excluded?
- Since 2004, there have only been 4 operating permits allocated for surf schools/camps operating on and at Linda Mar beach. The same 4 commercial surf camps/schools have held permits with no turnover or opportunities for new permit applicants. New businesses and/or nonprofits wanting to conduct surf camps on Linda Mar have not been able to apply and/or obtain permits; many have not even been able to start the permitting process as no new permit slots have opened since the creation of the initial 4.
- Under Pacifica’s current surf camp permitting system, nonprofits like City Surf Project and Brown Girl Surf and new commercial programs such as Sea Surf Fun have never been allowed to legally operate a surf camp on Linda Mar Beach.
- There is no numerical value that can be placed on the emotional and mental wellbeing that is impacted by exclusionary practices. However, to quantify the loss created by this inequity, this looks like about 10 Pacifica programs per season that serve 6-8 participants each, 2 seasons a year, plus youth summer camp programs, which serve approximately 8-10 youth per week.
- Furthermore, a permitting system that actively excludes folks (especially those who do not own businesses or property in Pacifica) from accessing the beach goes against the California Coastal Act guidelines on equitable access. Pacifica is operating a permitting system that lacks compliance with the California Coastal Act.
How is Pacifica upholding an invalid permitting system?
Under the California Coastal Act, the City of Pacifica DOES NOT have the authority to regulate activities of surf camps/schools because it does not possess a Coastal Development Permit (CDP).
What does this mean for surf schools?
For the past 17 years, the City of Pacifica has been upholding an exclusionary permitting system that is null and void. This means that technically, any surf camps and organizations can hold programs on Linda Mar Beach outside of the city’s invalid permitting system.
How has the California Coastal Commission (CCC) responded?
The CCC has provided us with emails and other evidence that shows the City of Pacifica was made aware of the fact that they must apply for a CDP to legally regulate surf schools. There has been historical interaction between the CCC and the City of Pacifica regarding the need for a CDP, however the issue fell off the radar and wasn’t revisited until earlier this fall. Despite previous contact, the CDP application process was neither completed nor followed up on. Now, the CCC has once again shared with the City of Pacifica that they MUST apply for and be approved for a CDP to regulate activities like surf camps on Linda Mar Beach.
What are the attitudes in Pacifica?
Although we have seen significant progress, this process has not come without challenges and resistance to change. We are grateful for the majority of support we receive and allies who work alongside us. We want to acknowledge and share that our work has not come without opposition, negative attitudes, and reinforced racism through acts of localism. While these oppositional acts may be the attitudes of the few, these actions do not exist in a vacuum, nor will they simply disappear once BGS and other nonprofits are granted permits. Changing hearts and minds will continue to take time, work and community engagement. In speaking this truth, we hope to shift surf culture away from the exclusionary and resistant actions that perpetuate harm within our communities.
What progress has been made (outside of the discovery of an invalid system)?
Over the last 6 years, there have been several attempts made by City Surf Project and other organizations to apply for a surf school program, however, they have been rejected by the City of Pacifica. Finally, in 2020, after the Paddle Out for Love – Black Lives Matter paddle out, attention was directed towards Pacifica’s inequitable permit system through grassroots organizing and community engagement. Summary of activities include:
- Creation of Surf Camp/School Policy Advisory Task Force (STF), Dec. 2020 :
- The STF was created after public action and support to ensure safety and equity for underrepresented groups by creating a permit program with equitable access for all.
- Consisted of 9 members made up of – one representative from traditional surf camp/ school, one community access partner surf camp/ school, one representative from San Mateo County Chapter Surfrider Foundation, and three PB&R commissioners, and two at-large members representing the Pacifica Public.
- The STF’s goal was to review potential new permitting systems and make a recommendation to the PB&R after several STF meetings
- Proposal of a Community Access Partnership Program (CAPP):
- BGS and City Surf Project created and proposed the CAPP permit system as a way for nonprofits to apply for permits to operate on Linda Mar beach and address the issue of equitable access for historically excluded and/or underrepresented groups
- The CAPP lays out a clear framework for equitable access going forward and supports organizations that are committed to the principle of increasing access to surfing for underrepresented groups
The STF has met once a month for 2-3 hour meetings for the last 11 months to discuss the permitting system and review the CAPP proposal. STF members were presented with the CAPP proposal created by Mira Manickam Shirley, Co-founder and former Executive Director of BGS, and Johnny Irwin, Co-founder and Executive Director of CSP, and discussed the scope and logistics of a new, more inclusive system.
On October 27th, the Task Force recommendations on the CAPP were presented to the Parks Beaches & Recreation Commission (PBRC). The PBRC unanimously approved the recommendations set forth by the STF – we are now waiting for the PBRC to vote on the new permitting system, which includes the CAPP.
There has been unclear communication from the City of Pacifica on whether or not they will prioritize applying for a CDP before the end of the year in order to continue the work of ensuring surf equity.
● We and our allies would like a formal apology from the City of Pacifica acknowledging its role in upholding exclusionary systems and reinforcing systemic racism and oppression
- We would like to start a conversation with the city after this apology about what reparations for the community might look and feel like.
- We are inviting the City of Pacifica to embrace change through an equity lens.
- BGS and CSP would like to see the City of Pacifica apply for and be granted a CDP that includes the CAPP proposal as a focus.
- In order for equity to be ingrained into the future of Pacifica’s surf culture, we believe it must be part of policy foundation and action.
- Once the CAPP system is created, we would like more priority to be given to CAPP schools when permits are approved
- This may look like allocating more “spots” to CAPP schools than commercial surf schools
● We expect surf equity to be continuously promoted when making surf camp policy and beach access decisions in the future.
One of our goals has always been to create a replicable system of surf equity for the entire state of California. In working with us and allies, the City of Pacifica has the opportunity to become an example of a city that worked to acknowledge outdated and exclusionary practices, and supported the creation of a more inclusive and joyful surf culture through an equitable lens.
What’s the “bigger picture”?
The work BGS, City Surf Project, and numerous allies have been doing:
- Demonstrates how land managers and nonprofits can work together for equitable access solutions, and influence guidelines for equitable public access and permitting processes on State lands.
- Increases understanding of how localism helps to enact and perpetuate structural racism. Ultimately, we hope to decrease localist attitudes and localist acts in towns like Bolinas and Pacifica (for example, maybe we will no longer see signs that say “Black Lives Matter” next to signs that say “If you are not from here, do not come here.”)
- Aims to start Bay Area conversations about the connections between localism and structural racism and spur conversations about this topic in the global surf community.
- We hope that localism will no longer exist in the California surf community and beyond.
How can you become involved?
At this moment, all we ask is that you SPREAD THE WORD, stay engaged and be ready for action! JOIN US in raising awareness and sharing with your communities what’s going on and how far we’ve come since the paddle in 2020 BE PROUD of yourselves for taking action, supporting the fight for equity, and continuing to learn and grow with us.
Stay tuned for the next Pacifica City Council meeting. We will follow up with ways that you can show up and be involved in this process, whether through public comment or letters of support.
We appreciate YOU and everyone for their continued energy, allyship, and love for the ocean!
Click here to view our resolution summary.