Surf legend Bethany Hamilton rips California officials after competition reverses stance on trans athletes

American surfing legend Bethany Hamilton has called out officials in California after organizers of a competition in Huntington Beach were told a transgender surfer must be allowed to compete in the women’s division. 

Hamilton, 32, posted a message on social media Friday about the controversy surrounding the inaugural Huntington Beach Longboard Pro in California this weekend after reports revealed the event’s organizers were forced to reverse their stance on transgender athletes or risk having it canceled. 

“California state law allows for males in female surfing events,” she said in a post on X. “This is not fair game. I do not support this.”


The California Coastal Commission sent a letter to Todd Messick, founder of the American Longboard Association, this week to inform him that he would be in violation of the Coastal Act if a ban on transgender athletes was enforced at his event Saturday. 

“This ban is not consistent with the public access, recreation, and environmental justice policies of the Coastal Act, nor is it consistent with the transgender policies adopted by the World Surf League (WSL) and International Surfing Association (ISA),” the letter stated.  

“Commission staff are particularly concerned that the Huntington Beach Longboard Pro may limit access to an area of state waters for an event that does not provide equitable access to all competitors. Compliance with the policies of the WSL and ISA would serve to preserve public recreational opportunities for all people, which is a requirement of the California Coastal Act.”

The letter went on to say that without meeting those standards, the event would risk not qualifying for a permit under the law.


The letter, signed by California Coastal Commission Executive Director Kate Huckelbridge, follows comments made by Messick in an April 25 video posted on Instagram addressing the American Longboard Association’s gender inclusion policy. 

“It was brought to my attention yesterday that there’s a transgender athlete that’s entered into the women’s division, and it threw me completely off guard. I didn’t realize I was going to have to address this just this soon – only into our second contest,” Messick began. 

“I do want to make clear that our policy is very much in line with the ISA … but right now we’re going to support biological males and biological females in their divisions, respectively. If you were born a female, you enter in the women’s. If you were born a male, you enter in the men’s.

“You guys can live however and whatever you want to do in life, that’s not for me to decide. But it is for me to decide what’s fair and not fair for the American Longboard Association. … I want to offer an equal playing field for all athletes and that’s the stand we’re taking.” 

Messick’s comments seemingly reference transgender surfer Sasha Jane Lowerson. Lowerson told the website The Inertia Messick was contacted about the competition but did not respond to Lowerson’s inquiry. 

Lowerson paid the entry fee but never heard back and decided not to compete, the outlet reported. 

The letter references a conversation with Messick and said the commission was ultimately satisfied the American Longboard Association had met the criteria to hold the event. 

The International Surfing Association updated its transgender policy last May to allow transgender athletes to compete in women’s events if the athlete “provides a written and signed declaration that she identifies as a woman” and if testosterone levels are less than 5 nmol/L for at least a 12-month period before an event. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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