“Hey dude, want to buy a $6,000-dollar permit for a half-million bucks?”
Most would answer that question with an extended middle finger. But not the World Surf League, especially if it’s the contest permit for one of the most iconic big wave spots in the world, Mavericks. Apparently, the WSL is in a buying mood.
The bankrupt owner of Titans of Mavericks has just asked a bankruptcy court to approve the sale of the permit to the WSL. The League would purchase the permit for $525,000, giving them the exclusive right to hold an event at one of the world’s best big waves each winter through the 2020-21 season.
“WSL, Titans of Mavericks and Cartel Management can confirm that they have reached an agreement to secure the permit to run the Mavericks event as one of the Big Wave Tour stops at Mavericks,” confirms WSL spokesman Dave Prodan. “All are very excited about this…Mavericks is known everywhere as one of the iconic and dramatic big wave locations in the world, and the WSL is looking forward to working with the San Mateo County Harbor District and the local community moving forward.”
The bankruptcy court is expected to make a decision on the sale before September 14, but the transaction would still need the blessing of the San Mateo County Harbor District, the local commission that sold the permit to event organizer Griffin Guess in 2015 for a little more than $6,000.
Under Guess’ ownership, the contest ran exactly once (in 2016, when Nic Lamb came away victorious). But Titans of Mavericks made plenty of headlines: Its organizers were obstinate in their reluctance to include women in the contest until the California Coastal Commission ordered them to do so. Last January, Cartel filed for bankruptcy, throwing into question the future of the iconic contest and probably depriving fans and competitors of an event that season.
If and when the event does run it will most likely feature female competitors, given the coastal commission’s order.
“The WSL demonstrated their commitment to women athletes when Paige Alms became the first-ever Pe’ahi Challenge women’s champion. The Harbor Commission has an opportunity to support Mavericks becoming part of the Big Wave Tour,” says Sabrina Brennan, one of the harbor commissioners.
Documents filed on Wednesday indicate that Guess “believe(s) the SMCHD will support the assignment of the Permit to WSL,” so perhaps the sale is already in the bag unless a judge objects. The league would be required to obtain other permits, from the U.S. Coast Guard, for example, to get the green light to send competitors into 50-foot surf.
Cartel announced in May that it would seek to sell its assets to wipe away debts in excess of $3 million. The request filed on Wednesday indicates that the contest permit is the only asset of value. In early June, Cartel sought $1 million for the permit but was unable to find a willing buyer.
Cartel attributes its financial problems to “operating difficulties arising from delayed sponsor payments, political complications, costly litigation and the need to maintain their necessary permits in the face of continuing efforts by certain third parties.”
As surf fans, we can only hope this long-awaited transaction brings stability back to one of the most anticipated contests of the California winter season.