Last week, the Honolulu City and County Department of Parks and Recreation passed a resolution (Resolution 20-12) urging Honolulu’s Department of Parks and Recreation to require contest organizers to include a women’s division at every surf contest that runs on the North Shore of Oahu.

The resolution was introduced by Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi and advocated by likes of Betty Depolito and the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing in light of the fact that women have been excluded from competing in all major North Shore events — which most notably includes the Triple Crown and the Pipe Masters — for more than a few years. And last Wednesday, the entire city council voted unanimously to approve the resolution.

So does this mean we’ll see a women’s division at the 2020 Pipe Masters? Not just yet. As it stands now, the resolution is “non-binding”, meaning that Honolulu City and County DPR isn’t legally required to make any changes in the immediate moment (a resolution is often used to express a body’s approval or disapproval of a specific matter).

“We’d need a change in our rules to impact the applications and surf events on the North Shore, but that would be a whole other process,” says Honolulu City and County DPR spokesperson Nathan Serota. “It’s very much still in discussion, and at least this has kind of gotten the ball rolling on the discussion.”

That’s not to say contest organizers (i.e. the World Surf League) still can’t make changes to their events, however. “The events scheduled for 2020 and 2021 are not impacted by this [resolution] from a Parks [and Recreation] standpoint”, but “for the organizers,” Serota continued, “if they had changes within their events, that’s more their decision [on how] to organize their events.”

A couple days ago, the WSL (who have been fairly quiet on the matter until recently) published a press release stating that it “supports Resolution No. 20-12 and commends the work of Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi and the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing on this resolution.” However, since the resolution just passed “and the permits for our events are fixed and the event schedules have now been set for several months, we are not currently in a position to immediately commit to adding a women’s division for our events on the North Shore.”

The WSL went on to say that it intends to have further discussions with the Department of Parks and Recreation regarding the integration of a women’s division into North Shore events. But, because Honolulu’s DPR issues permits based on a triennial calendar, there’s a chance we likely won’t see a women’s event on the North Shore until at least 2022, when the WSL files for its next round of permits.

“From what I understand, and heard, during the city council testimony and discussion amongst council members, they may pursue a bill on this”, Serota relayed. “If that passes, then that carries the weight and we’d absolutely be mandated to change the rules and that’d be effective once the rules are in effect.”

Many will likely find it disappointing that the new resolution will not lead to more immediate shifts in the competitive landscape, but for those advocating for the inclusion of women on the North Shore, it’s a starting point for a conversation that wasn’t happening before.

Overall, Councilmember Tsuneyoshi says the passage of the resolution was “a good and important first step, and a good way to start a dialogue that is necessary to make the necessary changes.” The Councilmember also told SURFER that she’s in the process of introducing legislation on the direction of the resolution, which, if ratified, would change a whole lot of things very quickly.

Stay tuned for more as this story progresses.

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