By JULIE JAG
Maverick’s can take care of itself, big wave surf break pioneer and contest director Jeff Clark said during the opening ceremonies for the Mavericks Invitational last October.
Next year it will have to.
Less than a month after one of the most successful events in Maverick’s big wave surf contest history, the event has been dropped from the Big Wave World Tour schedule.
The Association of Surfing Professionals, which purchased the BWWT last spring, announced on Wednesday a lineup of six big wave surfing contests on the 2014-15 tour. It includes Todos Santos in Mexico as well as a new stop at Jaws in Hawaii. The Mavericks Invitational and the Seatka Pro at Nelscott Reef in Oregon, two current BWWT events that are within driving distance of Santa Cruz, are not on the list.
Dave Prodan, an ASP spokesman, said Mavericks Invitational organizers chose to withhold the contest from the tour.
“The ASP very much respects the Mavericks events and it is a very special spot. Unfortunately, event organizers were not interested in having the event participate in the ASP BWWT for the 2014/2015 season and results from next season’s event will not count towards the ASP BWWT Champion at this time,” Prodan wrote in an email to the Sentinel. “We hope that will change in (the) future and Mavericks joins the BWWT.”
Clark, who has been organizing contests at the surf break near Half Moon Bay since 1999, can continue to hold the Mavericks contest independent of the tour.
The reluctance of Mavericks organizers to rejoin the BWWT, and thus sign on with ASP, isn’t surprising. Clark, considered the face of the break and the contest, expressed skepticism about reaching a deal with the ASP back in October, when the opening ceremony for the Mavericks Invitational was held.
“As I’ve always said, Maverick’s will take care of itself,” Clark said, pointing to the hundreds of fans and children at the beach for the opening ceremony. “Maverick’s for this community and Northern California is just the best big wave in the world to hold an event, and we have something really special here and we’re going to continue to take care of it. The best surfers in the world come here to test their mettle. This is the test of tests.
“The ball’s in their court,” he added at that time of the ASP. “We’ve met with them and met with them and met with them. It’s up to them at this point. We’ll continue talking, that’s all I can say.”
Last May, the ASP added the BWWT to its extensive lineup of surfing championships, which most notably includes the lucrative World Championship Tour, the domain of Kelly Slater, Joel Parkinson and Santa Cruz’s own Nat Young.
Santa Cruz native Peter Mel, who serves as the big wave surfers’ liaison to the ASP, said in October that under the ASP umbrella, he believes big wave surfing will finally be accessible to the sport’s 120 million fans — a number that comes from a study by sports marketing agency Repucom. More importantly, he said, watermen may finally be able to make a living by surfing big waves.
To that end, one of the first and only moves the ASP made upon acquiring the BWWT was to boost the prize purse at each event to $50,000. While the Mavericks Invitational already offered that sum to its competitors thanks to a new three-year sponsorship deal with Body Glove, some BWWT events had offered virtually no prize money to their surfers.
But even $50,000 is a pittance compared to the $400,000-plus prize purses offered at the ASP’s less life-threatening men’s Championship Tour events. That’s what Ken “Skindog” Collins of Santa Cruz, the No. 2 surfer in the current BWWT standings, thinks big wave surfers could make some day with the help of the ASP.
“In my opinion, I think the ASP is going to take the BWWT to same level as other ASP events. That really excites me,” he said. “To have Maverick’s not be on the BWWT, that’s a hit for anybody local here.”
This year’s Mavericks Invitational contest, held in 40-foot-waves in late January, could play a critical role in determining the BWWT champion. Grant “Twiggy” Baker of South Africa took a commanding lead in the tour standings over runner-up Collins of Santa Cruz when he paired a win in the crash-filled Mavericks contest with a win at Punta Galea in Spain, the only other BWWT event to be held so far this season. The tour champion will be crowned after the last of the events is held or after the contest window for the two remaining events — at Todos Santos and Nelscott Reef — closes on March 31.
Collins said he’s hoping organizers are just taking a wait-and-see approach to rejoining the BWWT and not being power hungry. But with the addition of events like Jaws — a wave so big the break has only hosted tow-in events — he’s also worried Maverick’s may have missed the boat.
He noted, however, that Maverick’s is one of the world’s premier big wave surf breaks. So even if it never becomes part of the BWWT, he said he believes the prestige of the contest and the reputation of the wave will continue to draw some of the best big wave surfers in the world.
“I think the Big Wave World Tour will do just fine without Maverick’s, and I think Maverick’s will do fine without the Big Wave World Tour,” he said.
Follow Sports Editor Julie Jag on Tout and Twitter @julie_jag.
Big Wave World Tour
Southern Hemisphere (April 15 to Aug. 31)
Punta de Lobos, Chile
Pico Alto, Peru
Dungeons, South Africa
Northern Hemisphere (Oct. 15 to Feb. 28):
Todos Santos, Mexico
Punta Galea, Basque Country Spain
Pe’ahi (Jaws), Maui, Hawaii