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Titans of Mavericks Female Blunder

Rory Parker

by Rory Parker

Cartel drags feet, pays price…

At a certain point you’ve gotta ask yourself, “Is there anything the Titans of Mavericks can’t fuck up?”

We’ve reached that point.

The event has been plagued by lawsuits, concert promoters, backroom politics, permit tussles, and accusations of sexism.

Yesterday the California Coastal Commission granted Cartel Management a permit to run this year’s event. Which may seem like a victory, but is anything but.

At issue was the inclusion, or lack thereof, of women in the event during the 2016-2017 season.

Brian Waters, Cartel COO, recently announced a plan to include women in the event, seemingly out of nothing more than a desire to see an equitable representation of sexes within the event.

Waters said the contest board had no reason for its seemingly sudden decision to include women this year other than, “It’s quite simply the right time.”

“There was no compelling driver other than it was the time to do it,” Waters said.

t seems as though Cartel’s strategy was to mollify, then ignore. Make promises, get permits, move forward.  Their problem came during the second step, forcing last minute adjustments, providing an only temporary reprieve from their ongoing permitting issues.

However, when the final roster was announced on September 29th, there wasn’t a single woman to be found. Instead, Cartel announced plans to run a women’s-only heat next year, during the 2017-2018 winter season.

It seems as though Cartel’s strategy was to mollify, then ignore. Make promises, get permits, move forward.  Their problem came during the second step, forcing last minute adjustments, providing an only temporary reprieve from their ongoing permitting issues.

Yesterday saw the announcement that a women-only heat would be added to this year’s Titans event, an action forced on Cartel by the California Coastal Commission through the efforts of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing.

This morning I called the aforementioned committee and spoke with Sabrina Brennan, San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner.

I moved here the first year the event started in 1999, for the entire time that I’ve lived on this bluff overlooking the break there hasn’t been a woman to compete in the event. There have been women that have been interested, and obviously there are women that surf there, but it has not been a possibility.

They’ve said, ‘Oh yeah well, we’ve got an alternate.’ I think they’ve done that twice now, with a couple different women. But they haven’t made it into the event.  And the reasoning has always been, ‘Well, you know, they need to pump more iron.’ That’s from Jeff Clark. The girls aren’t good enough yet, and that’s what we’ve heard.

I hang out at the same yacht club that Jeff Clark hangs out at and he and his wife have a little stand up paddleboard business that’s right behind the yacht club, so I know their point of view on this.  Because when you drink with people you really hear it. You learn about where they’re coming from.  It’s clear to me that it hasn’t been a priority.

Unfortunately for Cartel and the Committee of Five, their priorities are unimportant. While they are in possession of a permit from the Harbor Commission that extends until 2021, their permit from the California Coastal Commission was up for renewal this year. The CCC refused to budge on the issue of female inclusion, forcing Cartel to conform, or lose their ability to hold the event.

Cartel’s decision to do the bare minimum, at the last minute, represents a token victory for female big wave surfing, but also a squandered opportunity for Cartel Management. The CCC granted a permit for this year alone, denying Cartel the ability to chase long term sponsorship money or streamline operations going forward.

[Cartel] literally had no choice, so they backpedalled again and decided that they would include a women’s heat. But they didn’t do it on their own. They were forced to do it.  And they could have done it on their own. They could have taken the initiative to work with women athletes over this past year and to develop a plan that was reasonable and everybody felt fairly good about. It could have been a win/win for the event organizer, and possibly helped them with their sponsorship problems, and they didn’t go down that path. For some reason this particular group of people doesn’t seem able to make good business decisions, and I don’t know why that is. I think a lot of people wonder about that.

It’s strange, they could have seen this as an opportunity to re-present themselves to the public, and polish their image and instead they have this action sort of forced on them.

It’s a public resource, so for that reason alone, it’s just not acceptable to have it benefit one gender more than another. I’m not saying that women should have fifty percent of the day, I know that it’s a smaller group of athletes. But there has to be reasonable plans in place to grow the sport for women and to include women.  It wasn’t until the Coastal Commission staff said to these guys, in the past couple weeks, ‘Look, you haven’t presented us with an acceptable plan, and if you don’t include something for women this season we’re not going to recommend approval for your permit.’ 

The problem is that these guys have not been acting in good faith. They have not proven themselves as being serious about the inclusion of women. They are the ones that didn’t get their act together and come to the commission with a plan that the commission could support.

While yesterday’s decision represents a small victory for Cartel, they are a long way from winning the war. Next year’s permit application will be held to a higher standard, and this year’s efforts will not be enough.

They were also told, at the commission hearing yesterday, ‘Do not come back here without a real plan, because you guys didn’t do what you were supposed to this year. Do not come back here like this again.”

We’re gonna go through this again next year and people will be looking carefully at how this worked, and where it needs to go moving forward.

They were also told, at the commission hearing yesterday, ‘Do not come back here without a real plan, because you guys didn’t do what you were supposed to this year. Do not come back here like this again.

As with Twiggy Baker’s blackball last year, Cartel, and the newly rechristened Committee of Seven, which includes photographer Nikki Brooks and injured charger Savannah Shaughnessy, couldn’t resist the chance to take a parting shot.

While the Coastal Commission was still in session it was announced, via Facebook, that Bianca Valenti, who had served as the face of the drive for female inclusion, would not be invited.

There was a reception held after the Coastal Commission hearing last night, that was at the same hotel where the hearing was. So I was in the reception and the commissioners started trickling in, and I had three different commissioners come in and tell me that they had already gotten the news that the Titans Facebook page had announced who the athletes were, and that Bianca wasn’t one of the athletes.  They were really shocked and disheartened and extremely disappointed. It’s, like, talk about not building good relationships with people.

They just saw her speak, and then that happened. Maybe they didn’t get the four season permit they were hoping for, but they got the permit, then they went and did this. They did not have a good taste in their mouth, and I didn’t either.

Especially knowing that Bianca really stuck her neck out there. She lives really close to the venue, and surfs Mavericks the most. She didn’t have to do that. It’s very bittersweet, all of it.

What really irked me, when I talked to Brian [Waters] (Cartel COO) last night, I just said, ‘Why did you do that to Bianca?  You didn’t need to go there.’

And he was like, ‘It wasn’t us. It was the two new women on the Committee of Seven. They decided.’

I’m like, ‘Oh, really?’ It’s such bullshit. 

It was really infuriating and frustrating that they would retaliate like that. Bianca has definitely earned inclusion in the event and she is definitely one of the four most decorated women big wave surfers in the world.  o to not include her was just wrong.

You can’t draw a more clear picture of retaliation than for them to do that to her right after she made public comment.  How else are we supposed to perceive that?

While the introduction of a women’s heat, and the addition of two female members to the formerly male-only Committee of Five, seems to hold promise for the future, Brennan isn’t so optimistic.

I just wonder about how manipulated these two committee members are gonna be, and whether they really had anything to do with the choices that just were made.  I kinda doubt that they did, honestly. I don’t even see how they had time to really seriously consult with them, given that they’ve been making this up, as they go, over the last couple days. It’s sort of just all a bunch of smoke and mirrors at this point.