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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.

Meet: Your new fav pro surfer!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Sabre Norris is punchy and brilliant!

You’ve got to love a pro surfer kid born without a censor button. Sabre Norris, who is eleven years old and lives in the provincial Australian city of Newcastle, got on national television yesterday morning, called her former Olympian dad “fat and said he “has to suck his gut in for photos” and admitted that, even if she comes last in the Sally Fitz contest she’s a wildcard in, is going to drop the $250 prize money on doughnuts.

Sabre Norris, in case you missed the torrent of clips and stories over the last couple of years, is punchy and brilliant on a skateboard (watch her 540 as a nine year old, here), tears hell out of waves, has a dazzling website  and, I will predict although predictions of this sort are damn easy, will be a Carissa Moore-esque game-changer on tour.

As the always-wonderful Sean Doherty reported:

As a grown man, and a proud and crabby ol’ bastard, it’s hard to describe the feeling of being outsurfed by a 10-year-old girl.

After the initial denial that it was actually happening, it made me think deeply and depressingly about my life. I knew this moment would come, a sad sign of inevitable decline, but I expected I might be at least 70 years old when it did. Instead here I was, seemingly in my prime, my ego being shredded by the forehand turn of a killer smurf.

My sense of self-loathing, however, was soon overwhelmed by a sense of unbridled joy. It’s impossible, you see, to watch Sabre Norris surf and not be spellbound. “Cute” isn’t the right word for her surfing. She’s too damn good to be cute. A searing, grab railed, laid over cutback isn’t “cute”. Steph Gilmore describes Sabre’s surfing as “badass”, and this was a badass turn. Halfway through the turn, somewhere, surely, a single tear was rolling down Matt Hoy’s cheek. On Sabre’s next wave she threw a forehand air reverse. Then she got tubed. Blam! Blam! Blam! Between waves she was effervescent company. She never stopped moving and there was no dead air. “How sick was my last one!” “How much fun is this!” And, finally, “That last turn of yours was really, err… interesting.”

God she’s good. Now watch her light up the Today show!

Film: We put the F U in FUN!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Rotten to the Core is a film that captures your imagination!

Today Matt Wybenga releases the right movie for the right fucking time. It is Rotten to the Core! Come marvel at surfers using crass language, sticking out, getting pounded, dancing the glorious dance! Bruce Brown, Archie, Jordy Smith!

Come re-witness Bobby Martinez’s rant at the fucking tennis tour. Come listen to grindy guitar and come watch some very gorgeous surfing.

Oh it’s good to be alive!

Rotten to the Core from matt wybenga on Vimeo.

Hurt: Turn Volcom’s frown upside down!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

The Stone has hurt feelings but I know a perfect cure!

(A version of this story appeared first on LodgeGrit. Your other least favorite website!)

I have been a fly in surf’s soup for the better part of fifteen years. I laugh and kick and poke and cajole and bop and twirl and laugh again. Oh it’s all part of my dance, baby, and I have the most anti-depressive fun ever but it’s a dance that enrages, every once in a while, and particularly enrages the brands.

Their feets just sometimes get in my way. Their Volcom Creedlers. And I stomp and laugh and grind and bounce and laugh again but the owners of the Volcom Creedlers are not amused. They are not having fun.

What do you think they do though? Do you think they shout at me? Do you think they scream, “Nobody is enjoying themselves except YOU, asshole!” Do you think they holler, “Get off the floor, prick!”

No.

They don’t.

And here’s the craziest thing. I have never once in all my better part of fifteen years been called by a brand for laughing and poking and kicking. Not once. I sometimes hear through friends of friends of friends that such and such a brand is apoplectic or upset or hurt but nobody from the brand ever calls me.

Never.

And the flailing brands, the Volcoms, wonder why their sales are down through the floor and the dream is slipping from their grasp. We used to be outsiders all of us. We used to really and truly be against the establishment. We used to know, deep in our hearts, that what we did was not serious and that is exactly why we did it. We used to laugh and not be afraid to laugh even when other’s poked fun because we were all in on the same joke.

We used to step lightly.

Though no longer. Now dark and serious clouds fill the horizon. A Heavy and depressed march. Not reaching sales goals. Not matching market expectations. Stock prices slip, slip, slipping.

I will say, though, the brands lost their senses of humor long before they lost their sales.

So here we stand. Impotent rage boiling but never given release. A private gnashing of teeth. A public miscalculated failing.

But Mr. Brand Manager who refuses to call, would you would permit me one small bit of analysis? The posted fun-making stories about you soar. Their traffic goes through the roof and do you want to know why? Because when you forgot who you were and chased a market that doesn’t exist your core consumer was left heartbroken and alone. So now he cheers for your demise. Now she mocks your failure. Now he shares stories stomping your Creedlers.

Oh It’s not too late! The heartbroken are only ever waiting for love to come calling again. For love to present a hand and loosen its hips.

And while I have you, Mr. Brand Manager who refuses to call would you permit me to share one story?

When I was so fresh in the professional surf game I followed the tour through Europe, reporting on the World Surf League when it was called the Association of Surfing Professionals. The then CEO, for whatever reason, got caught in my crosshairs and I would laugh and kick and poke at him for Stab (when it was alive) about his baby blue shirts etc. etc. etc.

I made so much fun!

Would you like to know what the then CEO did? He challenged me to an arm-wrestle! He bounded through the door of the bar where I was drinking a stolen beer and arm-wrestled me into sweet submission!

I have loved Brodie Carr dearly ever since.

The moral? Let’s arm wrestle Mr. Brand Manager! Or tango! The music is still playing and it’s oh so anti-depressive!

Coastalwatch sues, tries to buy Surfstitch!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Surf forecaster offers fifty-mill for a company worth half-a-billion less than a year ago… 

Did you know there’s money in surf? Even in its supposed decrepitude, it’s still one of the great spinners of cash for nothing.

But it ain’t the early two-thousands when all it took to shave a piece off a marketing budget was a few cocktails and a half-convincing spin. Now, if you want to soak in the real money, you’ve got to know finance. You’ve gotta know how to create a company that, while losing money, and even while making acquisitions so outrageously bullish you know the house of cards has to fall, you can peel off a nice mill-a-year salary. With stock. Which you sell prior to the collapse.

Now, as reported by the Australian Financial Review, the owners of the surf forecast site Coastalwatch, which is suing Surfstitch over a content-sharing deal that put twenty-mill on the Surfstitch balance sheet, has offered to buy the whole thing for fifty-ish mill.

A little less than the half-a-billion dollars Surfstitch was worth last November.

From the AFR:

Not content with suing Surfstitch over a failed content deal, a media company from Sydney’s Northern Beaches has now lobbed a $55.4 million takeover offer for the embattled surf retail and media business.

Surfstitch revealed on Wednesday that it had received a non-binding proposal from Coastalwatch, a website that delivers surf reports and forecasts, to buy 100 per cent of the company.

A vehicle linked to Coastalwatch, Crown Financial, became a substantial holder in Surfstitch in September and has since bulked up its holding to 10.4 per cent.

Street Talk first revealed in August that Three Crowns Media Group, which is the ultimate holding company of both Crown Financial and Coastalwatch, as well as other media outlets including magazine Surfing World and snowsports website Mountainwatch, was the mysterious third party embroiled in legal action with Surfstitch over a content-sharing arrangement gone wrong.

 And to make matters more confusing, Surfstitch had once considered buying Three Crowns before its own troubles deepened. Now the tables have turned.