Daily Journal file photo
Cartel Management received a Coastal Development Permit from the California Coastal Commission Thursday.
Organizers of the renowned big wave surf competition Titans of Mavericks received the thumbs up from the California Coastal Commission Thursday just in time as forecasters are boasting a promising El Niño.
Cartel Management, which took over and rebranded the event, was ordered to apply for a Coastal Development Permit through the statewide agency responsible for overseeing land use along the coast.
Although the contest has been held in conjunction with gnarly waves breaking just north of Pillar Point Harbor near Half Moon Bay for more than 15 years, this was the first time organizers were required to obtain a permit from the Coastal Commission.
The permit gives Cartel exclusive access to the offshore surf area, allows it to close a portion of the West Trail and nearby parking lot and requires traffic as well as parking controls around the one-day event that could be held sometime between Nov. 1 and March 31.
Cartel received the one-year permit two weeks after hosting an annual ceremony marking the opening of the window. Despite fending off the World Surf League that showed interest in hosting its own competition and securing a multi-year permit from the San Mateo County Harbor District — which proved controversial in itself — Cartel got the Golden State’s stamp of approval Thursday.
“We’re very happy and enjoyed working with the Coastal Commission and their diligence through this process,” said Cartel Chief Operating Officer Brian Waters. “We were concerned on the timing, however, both our organizations really expedited the process, so hats off to the Coastal Commission.”
Closing the trail first began after several spectators watching from the beach were confronted by a wave that crashed ashore during the 2010 contest knocking down a tent and breaking bones. As the event has gained international notoriety and grown over the years, those involved have “fine-tuned” the event to protect the public as well as coastal resources, according to a Coastal Commission staff report.
Coastal Commissioner and county Supervisor Carole Groom said she was pleased to support the local event.
“It’s a world-class event. It takes such great advantage of the Northern California coast and it’s been going since ’98. There’s new management and I think they’re making all kinds of positive changes and it’s a huge economic boom,” Groom said, noting the event has been estimated to attract millions of dollars in revenue from tourists. “The attention it brings to San Mateo County, to Half Moon Bay, I think it’s a really good thing.”
The commission granted a one-year permit and, after a suggestion by Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan, included a provision that Cartel have a plan for incorporating women surfers into the event when it returns for next season’s permit.
“I think it’s pretty significant for women athletes, I’m pretty stoked about it,” Brennan said. “I’m excited that the Coastal Commission is going to take a role in ensuring there’s an equitable event and equality for women athletes.”
Waters said Cartel has never been opposed to women getting involved and two women came close to being chosen by the local Committee of Five — the group responsible for inviting 24 athletes to compete.
Comprised of surfers Mavericks maven Jeff Clark, Matt Ambrose, Darryl “Flea” Virostko, Ion Banner and Shawn Rhodes; the committee ultimately determines who competes.
When Cartel first took over, CEO Griffin Guess excitedly announced his intent to have women more involved in the event and Waters noted that enthusiasm remains.
However, the suggestion to have a women-only heat during the competition that hinges on surf conditions aligning is difficult, Waters said.
“The schedule is so tight for the day,” Waters said. “Ultimately, you’re on Mother Nature’s clock. There are challenges to have this contest happen on one day.”
Still, anyone brave and bold enough who can prove themselves on the perilous break is considered for the competition — women included, Waters said.
While everyone is praying El Niño will provide contest-worthy swells — and some reprieve from the drought — Waters said viewers across the country will be able to tune in via Red Bull TV and through licensing agreements Cartel is offering to businesses interested in hosting viewing parties.
Cartel opted not to run the annual Mavericks festival, which in years past was held in the Oceano Hotel and Spa parking lot. Talks of hosting a festival for future contests is still afloat and Waters said they’re looking forward to bringing the Titans together this year. Thanks to the local community as well as Chamber of Commerce for submitting letters in support of their permit request, Waters said the path to Mavericks is clear.
“El Niño is here!” Waters said. “We’re excited for this cooperating atmosphere and a swell that will provide a great event.”
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