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.
— Titans of Mavericks (@titansofmavs) October 19, 2016
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