Surfing organization pulls about-face on trans inclusion after pressure from California Coastal Commission

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After initially ruling that transgender females would not be allowed to participate in the women’s division of a surfing competition in California, the American Longboard Association reversed its decision.

Facing backlash, Todd Messick, the association’s founder, decided that trans surfer Sasha Jane Lowerson is now eligible to compete in the Huntington Beach Longboard Pro against women.

According to the BBC, the California Coastal Commission said surf competitions could “not discriminate based on gender.”



World Surf League surfer from California Caitlin Simmers competes in the World Surf League’s Lexus Pipe Pro surf competition at Banzai Pipeline off the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii, on Feb. 10, 2024.

Messick said that he was “surprised by the amount of anger” from his original decision.

“For me, I was trying to do the right thing. It wasn’t something I ever expected to have to deal with really, not in our little longboard community,” he said to the outlet. He later noted that “a lot of people [were] very appreciative of me speaking up” about fairness in women’s sports.

Messick also did not have much of a choice – the BBC notes that, according to the California Coastal Commission, “surf contests in state waters must be carried out in a lawful manner that does not discriminate based on gender” and risk being shut down if otherwise.

Lowerson, an Australian who won competitions against men, was “really disappointed and surprised” at being originally barred from the event.

“You can’t cherry-pick the rulebook. If you’re going to use the rulebook, you use all of it,” Lowerson said.

Lowerson is also an ambassador for Rip Curl, a move that surfing legend Bethany Hamilton ripped.

Bethany Hamilton in 2022

Bethany Hamilton of Hawaii surfs in Heat 5 of the Round of 16 at the Billabong Pro Pipeline on Feb. 2, 2022 in Haleiwa, Hawaii. (Brent Bielmann/World Surf League via Getty Images)


“Male-bodied athletes should not be competing in female sports. Period,” Hamilton wrote on X back in January.

Messick said that “90%” of the female surfers he has spoken with are on Hamilton’s side, “but many haven’t commented. It’s that sensitive.”

Hamilton made her stance on trans inclusion in women’s sports clear last year after she spoke out against the World Surf League’s (WSL) rules governing transgender women competing in its events.

Surfer Alo Slebir tries it out

Surfer Alo Slebir takes on a wave. (Tom Hoppa and Mavericks Awards)


The WSL said transgender female athletes need to maintain a testosterone level of 5 nmol/L for at least a year to participate in the women’s division. Hamilton said in her video she would rather see WSL create a new division.

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.

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