Less than four months after announcing a partnership aimed at elevating an infamous local surf competition, the evolved “Titans of Mavericks” is beginning to unveil momentous changes.
A notable first — two women could compete in riding the perilous giants.
A new title, a new “committee of five” and pairing with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to promote conservation are just a few changes avid fans will notice in a 2014-15 event. Although the competition is pending on volatile weather conditions, year-round action is guaranteed.
Earlier in the year, organizers of the locally adored big wave surf competition teamed up with Cartel Management, a boutique management firm based in Los Angeles and run by Griffin Guess.
“For me, symbolically speaking, Mavericks is the most challenging place on Earth for a human being. Not only do you have to be strong enough to handle it in the water, you have to have great mental toughness,” Guess said. “You have to be a special person. You can’t just go training in the gym for it. For me, (calling the competition Titans of Mavericks), it’s giving this homage.”
The invite-only event gives 24 surfers from all over the world as little as 48 hours notice to hightail it to Half Moon Bay and surf 30- to 50-foot monstrous waves in the frigid winter water.
Making the cut
A preliminary roster currently names 56 of the world’s bravest surfers, but will be narrowed down to 38 in the next few days, Guess said. After that, most will be on pins and needles waiting as each official invitee will be announced one at a time.
Guess said they’ve been working closely with Facebook and Instagram so, shortly before the opening ceremony Oct. 24, official invitees will by individually revealed via virtual ‘baseball’ type cards released through social media, Guess said.
Savannah Shaughnessy and Sarah Gerhardt are making Mavericks’ history as the first two women to officially be considered for the contest; both are rightfully qualified.
Gerhardt is known as the first woman to surf Mavericks and Shaughnessy served as a judge for last season’s competition and has been venturing Mavericks since she was 16.
Shaughnessy, a 25-year-old Santa Cruz County native, was also honored at the 2012 Mavericks Invitational closing ceremony for her rides at the formidable break. Now in her seventh season dedicatedly surfing at Mavericks, Shaughnessy said her most memorable experience was when she paddled out shortly after the 2010 invitational. It was one of the event’s largest surf days during which a rogue wave wiped out spectators and led to the beach and bluffs now being closed off during the competition.
“It’s always been a hope of mine to be involved in the event in any way I can, because I’ve always been a big fan,” Shaughnessy said. “I was really excited (when I made this season’s list.) It just feels good to be included and be a part of it.”
Guess said he too was thrilled to see Shaughnessy and Gerhardt named and has envisioned an event that could one day include women.
While brainstorming how to reinvent the Mavericks surf competition where the athletes reign supreme, Guess said he started to draw from Greek mythology, the superheroes and romance. Guess said he decided Titans was an honorable and suitable descriptors for those who surf the winter swells at Mavericks.
And, he noted, several of legendary Titans were women.
“It’s kind of cool to have the sisters come in there and be part of it. It was to my surprise as well, cause I’m never in the room when [the committee] votes,” Guess said. “I was extremely, super, super, pleasantly surprised and excited to see that Sarah and Savannah were there, who obviously deserve to be in that first list.”
But, the ultimate cut is in the hands of the new committee of five, Guess said.
Changes on the home front
The latest dynamic is a major shift from a few months back when Jeff Clark, the first to surf Mavericks and brainchild behind the original competition, his wife Cassandra, Rocky Raynor and Brian Overfelt were the locally-based board of directors responsible for putting on the event. Guess said the group will still be involved, but the selection process will be peer to peer.
Clark is continuing to shape the event, now along with surfers Darryl “Flea” Virostko, Ion Banner, Matt Ambrose and Shawn Rhodes. All are fluent in what it takes to predict contest weather and choose competitors, and none can now compete at Mavericks, Guess said.
“The committee of five is the organization that we have pretty much empowered to be the gatekeepers of our future competitors,” Guess said. “They’re there to help advise our organization when to call the contest, help with the event, that gatekeeper, that responsible key holder.”
Another change, about which Guess remained tight-lipped on a rationale, was the scheduling period. Previously, there was about a five-month window during which the contest can be held. Now, it’s broken up with a preseason that started Wednesday and going through Dec. 31, and the contest window running from Jan. 1 to March 31, Guess said.
And when it comes to year-round brand activity, Guess said there’s still a lot to unfold.
Mavericks officials announced Wednesday the Monterey Bay Aquarium will serve as the competition’s conservation partner to raise awareness about sustainability and maintaining the contestants’ battlefield.
Guess said the partnership could include having a walk-through mobile aquarium exhibited at the Mavericks festival at Pillar Point Harbor, the Titans brand participating in World Oceans Day and sponsoring conservation programs at local schools.
Prestigious Mavericks athletes, whether they compete or not, will serve as eco-stewards through educational public serve announcements on TV and radio, Guess said.
“I just felt it was really imperative to have a conservation footprint. ... Everything we have in California is because of this ocean and Mavericks wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have a healthy ocean,” Guess said. “We really want to empower, and what greater spokesmen, people, than these folks who challenge this wave. ... These athletes aren’t just surfers, they care about their environment, they care about the community. And on that level, it’s really exciting.”
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