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A competitor rides a wave during the Mavericks Invitational 2013-14 competition, in Half Moon Bay, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Sport equity

Big-wave boys club relents to allow women surfers to compete

By WITW Staff on October 24, 2016

For the first time since its inception in 1999, one of the most prestigious surf contests in the United States has relented to include a women’s heat in its competition. The addition of a women’s heat to the closely-held Titans of Mavericks invitational event was the outcome of lobbying to the California Coastal Commission by female surfers. Without a plan to include women in the event, the commission then said it would not grant the contest a renewed permit.

On September 9, Mavericks submitted a proposal for the new permit, stating the organization would “reach out” to women, who could compete against men if they qualified. The big-wave event is by invitation only and competitors are currently vetted by a five-person, all-male panel. The competition takes place in 20-plus-foot waves off the California coast, about 40 miles south of San Francisco, any time between November 1 and March 31 — and only if the surf conditions are up to par. The contest has run only 10 times since it began in 1999. As for an all-women heat, the organization initially declined to hold one until the 2017-18 contest.

On October 14, the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing sent a memo to the commission, expressing concern about the lack of women athletes among those surfers who had been invited to participate — against men — in the coming 2016-17 event. “The Committee 5’s requirement that women surf against men has created a playing field in which women surfers can be denied entry by an all-male committee who are authorized to judge the exclusion of women as fair and warranted,” committee members wrote. “Our proposal for a Women’s Division makes clear that among researchers and experts in issues of sports and equity, it is widely agreed that women must compete against women in a women’s division.”

Five days later, on October 19, Mavericks agreed to include a one-hour, six-women heat in 2016-17, carrying a prize of $30,000. With the announcement a women’s heat would run this season, Commission staff recommended the permit be approved. It will be voted on November 2, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports.

Read the full story at Deadspin.


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