They may be back
Surfers Matt Becker, left, and Aaron Gold talk before opening ceremonies in 2016.  John Green / Review

The California Coastal Commission granted the World Surf League a one-year permit for its “Mavericks Challenge” surf competition on Wednesday.

The window applies to Dec. 13, 2017 to March 1, 2018, but the surf contest organizers said on Thursday the contest could be held between Jan. 3 and Feb. 28.

In contrast to previous Coastal Commission meetings on the topic, this discussion was virtually devoid of any controversy.  

“Everybody is delighted that there’s new ownership,” said Commissioner Carole Groom, who also serves on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

Held more than 400 miles from the big wave break in a conference room in Dana Point, Calif., the meeting dynamics differed from the past two years’ meetings, held at a Pillar Point Harbor hotel.

Last year, commissioners and members of the public criticized previous owner Cartel Management’s seeming lack of interest in including women in the surf events.

In 2015 the Commission granted Cartel a one-year permit on the condition that the organizers would include more women in the event. The company’s efforts failed to satisfy the Commission and in 2016, was required to include a women’s heat.

There was no surf contest in 2016 as Cartel ultimately ended up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Attorney Karen Tynan spoke at Wednesday’s meeting on behalf of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing.

Tynan stated that she was relieved that the Commission only went forward with a one-year permit at the November 2016 meeting.

“Otherwise the permit would have ended up in bankruptcy court,” Tynan said.

WSL’s Bill Sharp spoke at the meeting about how the surf organization has prioritized the inclusion of women surfers. He highlighted Keala Kennelly’s World Surf League Big Wave Award in 2015.

Sharp admitted that while the sport has seen an overall rise in female participation over the years, big wave surfing still attracts far fewer women than men.

“It’s beginning to grow and we’re doing everything we can to encourage it and publicize women and big waves,” Sharp said.

Sharp continued to explain that while women will have their own heat in the event, that they’ll also be potentially eligible to compete alongside the men.

Mark Vargas, one of several commissioners who has criticized Cartel’s handling of the event, indicated that he was satisfied with Sharp’s responses to the Commissioners’ questions. 

“I’m excited that we’re now moving in the right direction,” Vargas said.

Commissioner Roberto Uranga stressed an interest in including more women judges, to which Sharp responded that two of the six judges are women.

Uranga stated he hopes that in future the Commission can grant WSL a multi-year permit so that they don’t have to re-apply every year.

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