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Did equality kill the​ Mavs event? From the​ careful what you wish for file

09.12.19 – TAGS: ,

Did the quest for gender equality in surfing inadvertently kill Mavs in the process.

From the careful what you wish for file, it was recently announced that there would be significant changes on the WSL Big Wave World Tour. Of particular note was the cancellation of any official WSL event to be held at Mavericks in 2019/2020. 


Pulling from the various published conversations with the new WSL SVP of Tours and Competition, Pat O’Connell, the words used were careful and measured. However, when strung together a theme began to appear which pointed to two main issues that may have played a major role in the decision by the WSL to abandon Mavs.

Time and Money.

Let’s tackle the money first. Pat also pointed out very simply that sponsorship could not be found for the Mav’s event. Which was interesting, as it would seem the WSL runs many other events that often don’t have a title sponsor. Also, given it’s only a one-day event with a relatively small logistics footprint, and that the potential for significant mainstream media coverage being highly probable, the money excuse did seem a bit thin.

Photo: (WSL/Briano)

As the story goes, a few months back Sabrina Brennan of the San Mateo County Harbor Commission, which is also involved with the permitting process, teamed up with a few prominent female big wave surfers who then lobbied the involved agencies for equal gender opportunity, based on the use of public funds. They were successful and an event permit at Mavs now comes with some form of an equal gender participation requirement.

Time, however, did seem to present a more realistic problem as the one-day contest window that the Mav’s permit allows for has historically presented challenges for this event. Especially given that the California Coastal Commission recently ruled that the needed permits would come with the requirement of some form of equal gender participation.

Awesome, right?

Well, not so fast.

It’s was also mentioned by Pat that a proper staging of the Mav’s event needs close to 8 hours of daylight to pull off so the additional heats required to hold a full field men’s event, and a corresponding full field women’s event, are simply not there in the one day permit window. The only option would seem to be to significantly reduce the men’s draw, which is also most likely of the highest commercial value to the WSL. Given all that, did the WSL simply no longer see a viable event at least in part due to the new gender participation requirements? Saying as much would have been a PR disaster so perhaps the financial spin was simply the easy way out?

Will we ever see this again?

With equal gender participation probably coming down the road for most sports, who knows what the future holds.  At last look, there was one woman in the 28-person main invitee list for the 2019/20 Eddie.  Surely that will be addressed at some point in the future.

Gender equality in sports is a tough one as there is a reasonable case to be made for “open” events for all genders to compete together, as well as the “separate but equal” concept, which is what most women athletes seem to be seeking. The reality being that most sporting events don’t run for free and unless the Ziff’s, or some other benevolent participant are available to bankroll every athlete seeking their “opportunity”, we could very well see a future where we lose more events than we gain.

On that riff, here’s a thought: Roxy, Bong, O’Neill, Volcom, etc., how about pulling a little cash from the pretty influencer budget and creating a collectively presented big wave event just for the ladies? God knows you been appropriating surf culture at a huge profit for years now, how about a little pay back?

But then, the men would call bullshit for being excluded based on gender.

Not sure where this one’s headed.

What Youth

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