A group of four female big wave surfers no longer want to compete for the same spots as men in the Titans of Mavericks contest — they want their own division.
The group, including Bianca Valenti, Keala Kennelly, Andrea Moller, and Paige Alms, has requested that state officials require organizers to create a separate division this year at the premier big wave event. The surfers have named their group Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing.
If the California Coastal Commission sides with the group, it could force the hand of contest organizers, who want women to vie alongside men for the coveted 24 competition spots granted annually.
The invitation-only contest, which has run since 1999, is currently open to women. Despite the number of talented and experienced female big wave riders, none has made it high enough into the ranks to be given a jersey on contest day. Savannah Shaughnessy was the seventh alternate last year, and the year prior made it into the penultimate round; but no dice.
The all-male, five-man Committee 5, including Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark, decides on who makes the cut. This has led some to question the fairness of the selection process, which Clark has said takes place “through a polling of peers, guys that surf out at Mavericks and the guys that are pushing it to the level of performance that is the absolute highest level.”
According to the event’s website, “The 24 who compete possess fearless character and endless passion that give them these unique set of skills to challenge Mavericks each and every year.”
Paige Alms, Andrea Moller, and Emily Erickson were listed among 61 surfers included in this year’s Round One pool, while Shaughnessy, along with fellow Santa Cruz surfer Shawn Dollar, were given “honorable mention.” The women did not, however, make the Round Two pool of 38 surfers, which was released on Thursday, Sep. 29th. Eight alternates and eight wildcards can be chosen to surf if the event, whose window spans November, December, January and February, runs.