New management for Mavericks: Local surf competition organizers pair with Cartel Management

A surfer catches a break during the Mavericks surf contest. A new management partnership seeks to focus more on the surfers with an emphasis on their talent.

When the next winter swell picks up monstrous enough to draw surfers from all over the world to risk their lives and compete in the renowned Mavericks Invitational, international spectators will be able to tune in and the athletes could take home a hefty prize after local organizers paired with a Los Angeles management company.

The invite-only event brings 24 professional big wave surfers to the thrilling break near Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay. It has changed hands throughout the years and is currently being cultivated by a group of locals.

Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark, his wife Cassandra Clark, Rocky Raynor and Brian Overfelt make up the board of directors and have joined forces with Cartel Management, a boutique talent agency owned by the young Griffin Guess.

“It’s not every day you find a really really good fit, both from the sense of business, also the sense of community. And [Guess is] really into this,” Clark said. “He’s been watching Mavericks for years kind of go in and out of the highs and the lows. And we do a lot of things really well and some of the things that we don’t do well, he does better. So we’re really looking forward to this partnership getting underway and really carving out a stable event.”

Cartel’s star-studded portfolio includes working with musicians and athletes like Kanye West and Barry Bonds, along with organizations and companies like the NFL, Apple, Victoria’s Secret and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.

Guess said taking over the Mavericks brand and elevating it as high as the barreling waves will involve broadcasting licenses and perhaps, one day, inviting women to compete on the ocean’s stage.

The new partnership will be Cartel’s first real venture into the surfing sphere and the Invitational directors’ chance to receive support.

Organizing the competition has hinged on volatile factors such as a mere 48-hour-notice before it begins, sweating over gaining enough sponsors to put on the event and enticing the athletes to risk their lives with a meager purse prize, Overfelt said.

“Right now, the surfing industry has no money. We’re begging to pay for the event through our sponsors. But they can only give us what they can give us,” Overfelt said. “There’s always been room for the right person to step up and I think for the first time … I think the proper steward for Mavericks Invitational has showed himself, unveiled himself.”

Emphasis on talent

Overfelt said he was introduced to Guess a few months ago through big wave rider, record holder and avid Invitational competitor Shawn Dollar from Santa Cruz.

Since then, the board and Cartel have hit the ground sprinting.

The title of the competition may change, a romantic story line immersed in the local history will evolve and driving Mavericks as year-round brand could bring fiscal stability and national attention to the event, Guess said.

Guess, who lives in Santa Cruz with his supermodel wife Marissa Miller, said working with Dollar and getting to know Invitational organizers spurred his desire to spotlight the renowned surf break.

“I think the interest that originated, just piqued my attention, was the talent. And as a close connection with a lot of these big wave surfers that are local to Santa Cruz and the Bay Area and over time, I’ve built a relationship with those folks and hear what they’re looking for as an artist,” Guess said. “It started casual and I really kind of started to understand the more granular details of what they were doing really well, what they were looking for, where they wanted to take it. They really started to divulge all of it. The history of the wave, just so many elements that I saw a lot of potential in.”

Guess said there are four pillars on which he wants to focus: the wave, the athletes, the community and the brand.

Deriving a payoff worthy of those who risk their lives on the perilous waves and providing for the athletes were primary reasons why Overfelt said he was drawn to Guess and Cartel.

“He just wants to fix it. So he’s got the passion for the athletes, to take care of them. He loves the rogue-ness and the difficulty the event has given other people in the past, he likes the challenge,” Overfelt said. “Get this thing under a premium platform where it belongs. These guys can die out there, they have died out there, they need to be protected, they need to get a reward.”

Right now, a lot of the athletes are paying their own way for hotels, flights and other expenses, and Guess said that’s going to change now that he’s on board.

‘A true invitational’

“We are going to make the new Mavericks an element for really a story line that is really based on a true invitational. We are inviting these talents or these athletes. They are invited to come to our community to our event and be part of our brand, part of that means they are cared for,” Guess said. “They’re not going to have to cover their bar tabs at the end of the night. … Because they’re performing for us on this phenomenal stage, we want to be able to honor them and give them worth in a way that translates, because of the risk that they take.”

Guess, Overfelt and Clark all said Mavericks will stay true to its local history and lineage.

Guess said this new partnership isn’t a merger; it’s an acquisition of responsibilities that he’ll take to heart by keeping Mavericks authentic to Half Moon Bay and bringing in the type of sponsors that will respect that.

“I thrive off their energy, I thrive off their loyalty and community and frankly, just really respect what they’re doing, and really just using all of that. I’m just inspired. There you go, I’m just really damned inspired,” Guess said. “We’re excited to [bind] together and hold those hands and all collectively make this thing great, because this is a big project. It’s kind of funny, the wave is as big as this project.”

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