By Jennifer Savage

Take action: For years, the City of Pacifica’s Surf Camp/School permitting policy has effectively discouraged nonprofit organizations working to build a more diverse surf line-up from running their programs at Pacifica State Beach. Help change this situation by: 1.) Emailing Pacifica’s Parks, Beach and Recreation Commission and asking the policy be amended to support nonprofit organizations and/or, 2.) calling in to the commission‘s Wednesday, July 22 meeting to give public comment in support.

History: Back in 2003, citing safety concerns, Pacifica’s Public Works Department recommended the City Council only allow three surf camp/schools to operate. In 2005, the council approved that plan with one additional permit being allowed for local surf shops. Currently there are four permitted surf camps: two large (up to 25 students) – Adventure Out and Surf Camp Pacifica, one small (up to 12 students) – University of Surfing, and one local shop – NorCal Surf Shop.

Because only four permits exist and each year these camps have renewed their permits, they’ve prevented new camps and nonprofit organizations from being able to operate independently in Pacifica. (When an inquiry is received, groups are added to a list and told they will be contacted should a spot open up.) Additionally, the 2020 price for an annual permit is $1,060 for small camps and $1,280 for large camps, a prohibitive cost for nonprofits.

Current situation: Through an arrangement with NorCal Surf Shop, City Surf Project, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing equitable access to the ocean, has been able to bring youth from underserved areas in San Francisco to Pacifica, often providing them with their first ocean experience. However, CSP depends on that relationship to run their program, unable to operate independently under Pacifica’s outdated policy.

Meanwhile, Brown Girl Surf, an Oakland-based nonprofit working to build a more diverse, environmentally reverent, and joyful women’s surf culture, has had no option but to travel an additional 13 miles south to Half Moon Bay.

Time for change: At the June 8, 2020 Pacifica City Council meeting, approximately 30 emails/letters and 13 speakers identified concerns with the surf camp permitting process. From the staff report: “In particular, many wrote or stated that they were concerned about racial equity relating to beach access, and that the permitting process makes it difficult for non-profits, like Brown Girls Surf and City Surf Project to apply for a surf camp permit,” and advocated reforming the surf camp permitting process. 

In response to this clear need, the council assigned the Pacifica Parks, Beach and Recreation Commission the task of re-evaluating the surf camp/school policy to determine how the program could be amended or the permit renewal process revised in order to support nonprofits that work with diverse communities. To support this effort: 1.) Email Pacifica’s Parks, Beach and Recreation Commission and ask the policy be amended to support nonprofit organizations; 2.) Call in to the commission‘s Wednesday, July 22 meeting to give public comment asking for the policy to be made more inclusive.