There are signs of trouble amid a fragile alliance of sponsors, promoters, surfers and other professionals working to build the Mavericks surf contest into a more profitable brand. In recent days, numerous complaints, bitter feuding and a new lawsuit have surfaced — all aimed against Cartel Management, the agency spearheading this year’s contest, now dubbed the “Titans of Mavericks.”
The Los Angeles-based Cartel first entered the world of big-wave surfing last June when it acquired the rights to host the Mavericks contest. For months, the purchase was largely celebrated by local organizers and professional surfers who saw the company as a solid partner to bring a new level of refinement and money to the event.
That honeymoon soured in recent days as many stakeholders have begun publicly denouncing the company and its practices. Body Glove, the title sponsor from last year's Mavericks contest, is suing Cartel Management in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging the company violated its three-year contract. Meanwhile locals involved in the contest are alleging the company reneged on other agreements, including a pledge to let the Mavericks contest continue as a fundraiser for the local nonprofits.
Cartel representatives have largely declined to comment on the new allegations. Brian Waters, Cartel’s chief operations officer, said the company is working diligently to build the Mavericks contest and festival so that they grow over the long term. He is adamant that the contest will go forward this year, if promising surf conditions occur. The company has already announced there would be no spectators’ festival in 2015. The window for the contest itself runs through March 31.
“We’re putting a lot of great work and effort into this, and some people aren’t going to be happy with these changes,” Waters said. “This is a long-term thing. We’re not just thinking about this year.”
Body Glove sues
It would be hard to imagine last year’s Mavericks contest without the help of the Body Glove, the Redondo Beach-based surf company. As a lead sponsor, the company provided surfing gear, a hefty sum to pay for the contest and even the bronze trophy for the champion.
The deal was originally intended to last for years to come. A 2013 contract signed between Body Glove and Mavericks Invitational spelled out a three-contest sponsorship meant to provide the event with an unspecified sum over the life of the deal. In turn, the contract stipulated that Body Glove would receive top billing as the title sponsor on the event website and give the company exclusive rights on a wide range of products like surf-wear, sunglasses and cellphone cases.
After Cartel Management took over the Mavericks organization last year, Body Glove attorneys say what took place was an “indefensible, wholesale breach of the agreement.” Cartel representatives sidelined Body Glove as they scouted out more sponsors, and the company no longer had placement on the contest website or other media, attorneys say.
Meanwhile, Cartel founder Griffin Guess was quoted in the lawsuit as saying he wanted to recruit “Fortune 500” companies, “more Apple, less NorCal surf shop.”
Body Glove attorney Yuval Rogson is seeking an undisclosed sum from the suit.
“Body Glove continues to support surfing and we want to be a part of this,” he said. “But we can’t do blackmail. We expect people to honor their agreements.”
Longtime Boys and Girls Club board member Rocky Raynor, himself a surfer, has a long history with the Mavericks event. In his role on the nonprofit, he has championed using a spectator festival as a fundraising machine for local charities. As partial owner of Mavericks Invitational since 2013, he was also in charge of making the contest function as a business enterprise.
Raynor said he was glad to hand off many of those duties to the Cartel team last year, but that’s a decision he now regrets. He says Cartel officials pledged the Boys and Girls Club would continue to use the Mavericks event as a moneymaker, mainly through controlling the paid parking and the festival beer sales.
Late last year, Raynor said he became increasingly worried as he heard an uproar coming from his contacts at Body Glove over what they perceived as contract violations, he said. Cartel was pressuring former sponsors — not just Body Glove, he emphasized — to provide more money than they originally agreed upon, Raynor said.
“Cartel was saying they were out unless they gave more money,” Raynor said.
He described being marginalized after bringing these concerns to Cartel and the rest of the Mavericks Invitational team. Not long afterward, the same group voted to oust Raynor from the inner circle of organizers, he said. Now Raynor said he has lost faith that the new Mavericks organization would continue to serve the local charities.
Asked about the Boys and Girls Club, Cartel representative Waters pointed out the company donated $10,000 to the nonprofit at the Mavericks opening ceremony last year. Certain fundraisers, such as the parking or beer sales were put on hiatus this year, he said, because the Mavericks festival was postponed.
Raynor said that donation was “meant to buy us off for one year.” Other Boys and Girls Club trustees don’t share that view. Asked about the contest, board member Steve Bacich said he hadn’t heard about any of the acrimony Raynor was describing.
Another group railing against the Mavericks organizers this year includes two of the contest’s most ardent fans. Acclaimed Mavericks photographers Frank Quirarte and Doug Acton have made public their outrage over failed contract negotiations with Cartel.
Even before the contract negotiations started, relations were testy between the two camps, Acton said. Following the opening ceremony last year, Acton said he nearly came to blows with Cartel executives at a late-night party after they dismissed Half Moon Bay as a bunch of “hillbillies.”
Acton and Quirarte have long been part of the scene, taking personal watercraft and capturing photos of the surfers on the big wave. But for the last two contests, they say they were essentially working on a pro bono basis, but with the promise from Mavericks Invitational members that they would eventually be paid. The latest contract offered in January by Cartel wasn’t what they had in mind, they said.
The contract offered them a flat $1,000 rate for working the contest day. More alarming to them was that Cartel wanted sole ownership of all their images for nine months following the contest.
Acton, who currently has work on display at the Coastal Arts League, pointed out that some of his best images could sell for well above $1,000.
“What they want is 500, 600 photos for $1,000 and they want to do whatever they want with them,” he said. “And we’d have no say in it.”
Quirarte said the plan calls for media accessibility to be much more tightly controlled than in past years. The contest would have a slew of media and spectator boats, but Quirarte said he was told by Cartel that those vessels would be kept at a distance and they would moor two 50-foot boats in front to block the view.
“Cartel wants a media blackout in order to create a demand for the event images,” Quirarte wrote in an email. “They will package up our images and then sell or distribute them as they see fit.”
For his part, Raynor says that he is hoping a new group regains local control over the contest.
“I could run through the list of people who came in from L.A. and thought they could run this surf contest,” he said. “It’s not about the money. They’re trampling over the community.”
Did a little research on my own and found absolutely no record or history that Cartel Management has any experience in running any event let alone one of this magnitude. Here is what I did find. This link points to a public document which I found easily on Google thanks to the help of Mr. Ullom's post.
The link is a detailed court document detailing Cartel's owner failed business past. Machete, Threat Inc, Cartel Inc. These are all names associated with the new owners of the Mavericks event?!?
I'm concerned that Jeff Clark and the Mavericks Board would allow the event to fall in to the hands of another questionable entity after his last debacle with Mavericks Surf Ventures.
Because they (Cartel) chased away the current sponsors the event won't happen this year which is a shame. Hopefully our County and local reps can get to the bottom of this before it turns into another mess. Mavericks is such a beautiful destination and we don't need mismanagement by the Mavericks Board or Cartel Management to place another black mark on our coast.
The permit issued by the Harbor District has two primary requirements.
1) All fees to be paid prior to Jan 1st, 2015.
2) Proof of insurance for the event prior to Jan 1st, 2015.
As to item 1. Zoe Lee of Cartel Management signed the permit on Jan 14 and sent a check to the tune of 11,600.00 dollars for the fees. Two weeks after the opening of the contest window. Cassandra Clark of Mavericks Invitational Inc. singed the permit on Jan 21. Scott Grindy of the San Mateo Harbor District signed it the next day. Three weeks after the opening of the contest window. Scroll to page four and see for yourself:
As to item 2. The insurance for the event was purchased on Jan 27, 2015. Four weeks after the opening of the event window. Here is the proof:
The event has been horribly mismanaged. If the mother of all swells had shown up prior to Jan 27, there still would not have been a contest. Are the C5 going to blame this on Rocky Raynor and some photographers?
Or maybe, cash flow problems. Griffin Guess was supposed to have all kinds of connections. He was going to get more Apple and less Nor Cal Surf. He was going pay for all of the costs incurred by any Titan who showed up. He was going to get them all a ton of money and the respect that they know they deserve.
If you go to the Titans of Mavericks website, you will see that it lists exactly four sponsors / partners. The Boys and Girls Club of America just signed on. Red Bull is the living streaming partner. Monterey Aquarium is the Conservation partner. A Clif Bar is the official sponsor of a 5000.00 dollar prize for the best barrel ride or some such.
Red Bull was a live stream partner prior to Cartel Management. Maybe the Aquarium is pumping in some money but the BAGC, I doubt it. Clif Bar seems to have some presence so they might be a big time sponsor. Hard to say.
One more thing that does not bode well. There is a contact form on the Titans of Mavericks website. Companies that might want to sponsor the event are told to use it. The contact form was broken for over three weeks. I sent Zoe Lee an email over a week ago explain what was broken. It was a simple fix and they fixed it last night.
I suppose the Committee 5 could blame that on the Greedy 4 too.
@Committee 5 posting, I read the link on FB that the Committee 5 posted here. I'm assuming that they are part of Cartel? One of your post reads that "We are the community"?!? That's interesting because 5 people that make up the committee, two live in Pacifica, one in Santa Cruz and one in El Granada. That is hardly a representation of the HMB Community. (Sorry not sure where the the 5th one lives)
Cartel should quit being so arrogant and should stop trying to place blame on anybody but themselves. Read these comments. There are some real issues. "The community" is concerned.
What's a bit worrisome is that half way through the contest waiting period Cartel and whoever decided to ditch the festival. This is the disconnect between somebody trying to have an event on the coast doesn't realize is that its hard enough trying to get from one end of this town to the other on any given weekend. God forbid if there was an emergency not related to the contest on that day and emergency vehicles couldn't get through. Cartel may have acquired a permit to hold an event but that doesn't mean life stops for the rest of us.
I think they need to force them to have a place for people to converge instead of abandoning the community to the traffic mayhem that will ensue. I read that instead of a festival they were going to send everybody to the local restaurants. That's great idea but after they reach their capacity of a few hundred folks where does the rest of the thousands go? Having a bunch of people roaming the streets looking for something to do never ends up great.
I thought the community was part of this event. What happened?
"....For some reason, the Editorial Board at the HMB Review does not want Griffin Guess discussed. I have posted info on him at three times here and it has been deleted each time...."
No mystery. The Review (and its editorial board) is owned by a corporation. On this point, see my previous comment below.
Can anybody explain why The Boys and Girls Club fails to acknolage the support from and partnership with Cartel Management?
They were given 10 grand but if you check out the BAGC website, no mention of Titans, Mavericks, Griffin Guess, or Cartel Management.
For some reason, the Editorial Board at the HMB Review does not want Griffin Guess discussed. I have posted info on him at three times here and it has been deleted each time.
Here is a link what has been found so far:
Next up. The sad story of a Rich Daddy, a boy named GG, a few hundred thousand dollars for a media start up, broken agreements, a Daddy who loses trust in is son, closed bank accounts, cancelled credit cards, unpaid vendors, and lots of work for lawyers.
Let us see if this one offends the Editorial Board of the Review as badly as my words have tweaked CTS and SV2C
Glad you set us straight.
If a bunch of guys want to go out and surf to see who wins, best of luck to each.
You want to take some pictures? Video? Have at it.
You want to tie up traffic? Keep someone off the bluffs? Impact the lives of residents in any way shape or form? No deal. You can literally just stop thinking about it because it will NOT HAPPEN ANYMORE.
Take your "respect" back from whence you came. You never were.
Should we expect anything less from a firm called "Cartel Management"?
An entire article using sources that are no longer involved in the contest due to disagreements doesn't seem to be valid or even a respectable piece of journalism. So, a few angry people are mouthing off because they are no longer involved. If all businesses had to sway with public opinion based on malcontents, the tech world would be a ghost town. The contest is about the athletes and their challenge of the great wave, and there's not a single athlete or person still involved quoted in the article, just unhappy people who were ousted. That's funny. But the most astonishing part of this article is the fact that a local charity - the Boys & Girls Club - received a $10,000 donation, and the guy criticizes it while still taking the donation. There is no way I would ever support that "charitable" organization.
This was always a local scene, which included benefitting various non-profits and allowing locals to watch the contest live. Hiring outsiders (which is what Cartel is - no question) is making a deal with the devil. Though more funding for the contest is great, who really benefits? To ban photographers from shooting, that Cartel wants full ownership of all images - even just temporarily - is anathema to the photographers whose images are a their art and reputation. "Hillbillies" we may be, but the contest used to be an exciting local event which, though free to view live, profited non-profits through local vendors, as well. Now it has become just another money-making operation, one with myriad restrictions for locals, benefitting just another cold corporation.
Reading JCU's rant at first sounds something like mine, until I thought about it. John just might be onto something here.
Rescinding any permits would be a good start. That would tell those that have screwed up such a wonderful competition for so long that they'r out. If that means the Harbor District is the lead Agency, then so be it.
Next, the harbor District could work with the City of HMB with the goal of having the annual contest and doing it right.
If they can and are willing to take it on, there would be a shared cost - equally shared. And just as the costs are equally shared, so would be any revenues. The City has a Community Development Director who could coordinate with a Harbor rep. Were I the Community Director, I'd certainly want to bring the Boys & Girls Club onboard to help. They could play a significant role in set-up and break-down of the event.
Local venders, like the Brewery or Sam's for example, could sell their wares at the event. They could give a percentage of their sales to prize money, lessening the cost to the two Agencies (maybe even covering the costs altogether).
The premier and primary goal would be the competition ... not who's the boss or how much any one individual can make. Personal recognition would only be offered the competitors, as it should be.
JCU, you might just be onto something. People will come, as we've seen year in and year out; and why wouldn't they? It is a spectacular event, one that is very rare and unique to our coastline.
It would be a bit of a stretch for both Agencies as they are not used to this type of activity, but it could and can easily be done - which would wipe out all those greedy sticky little fingers and egos.
Well worth the thought and discussion, I think.
Sad is the right word.
The day that surfers decided they needed the Sheriff to close off access to the bluffs, the beach, and the waves so as to score a buck was when we all should have seen this coming. Now the waves are owned by some dude named Griffen Guess.
Something beautiful, unique, and treasured by some has been ruined.
We as a community can stop it. The Harbor District should rescind the permit at the earliest legal opportunity. Then the community should tell everybody who thinks they own those waves that those waves are OURS.
Then we as a community should run the damn event. We as a community can easily webcast the video. We have people with the boats and the expertise and the love for those waves who will provide the platforms from which to video the event. Add a couple of drones.
Then WE as a community can sell the webcast and use the money as a community.
Who owns those waves? Jeff Clark? Griffen Guess? I SAY NO!
We own those waves.
"...And the corporate snakes coming in to feed
On that pathetic fact known as human greed..."
George, you knew the answer to your rhetorical question was greed...
Sad to see these people making such a mess of it.
How can such a simple thing continually get so screwed up?
Screw the money and all those that want a piece of it. Have the contest without all the BS.
Let them surf! Let those that can enjoy the event and just drop the greed. It's been going on for way too long.
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