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Sunday, September 25, 2011
Maverick's contest gets permit

By Ethan Stewart

Chris Bertish during the finals of the 2010 Maverick's contest. Bertish won the event.

It has been a tough few months for the myriad of folks looking to once again host a big wave event at California's most notorious heavy water honey hole but, last week, after a key approval from the San Mateo County Harbor Commission, it looks like all systems are a go for the return of contest surfing at Maverick's this winter season.

Thanks to a unanimous vote from the Commission last Wednesday night, a freshly formed group calling themselves Maverick's Invitational Inc. was awarded the one-day, special event permit necessary to host the event. Even better, the group, which has already named Maverick's pioneer Jeff Clark as contest director, is made up of various individuals who, not too long ago, had been bitterly competing against each other for the coveted permit. "There's been controversy over the years that cast a shadow over Mavericks and the big wave community," summed up Clark in a prepared statement. "But this is a new day and a new group that is united and ready to present a world-class event. We're doing this right, for the right reasons and for the long term. Everything is where it should be now."

For Clark, who sits on the Mav's Invitational five-member board of directors along with fellow surf legend Ken "Skindog" Collins, Maverick's Surf Company President Cassandra Clark, and longtime Mav's photographer Brian Overfelt, getting the nod as contest director marks a nice conclusion to what has been a bumpy road between him and people who put on contests at the wave he discovered decades ago. Earlier this summer, Clark won a long stewing lawsuit with the now defunct group, Maverick's Surf Ventures, an organization that he helped put together in 2003 that had been running the Mav's contest up until last year. Clark was ousted as the Mav's contest director in 2009 by other MSV interests and eventually filed suit against them alleging fraud and breach of contract. In late July, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch finally agreed and Clark was awarded a total payout of $675,000 by 2017.

As for the new contest, details emerged Wednesday providing a basic sketch of what Clark and company have planned. As per the permit, the waiting period of the 2011/2012 newly named Maverick's Big Wave Invitational will run from Dec. 1 through March 30. The contest will once again utilize the harbor's west parking lot, the trail to the beach and the small sandy cove at the end as a tented contestants area. Also, aiming to prevent the type of trouble that occurred during 2010's contest when a rogue wave washed more than a dozen spectators into the Pacific and toppled contest scaffolding, members of the public will not be allowed on the beach or the path during the contest (according to organizers, a large Maverick's festival area will be set up during the contest in the parking lot behind the nearby Oceano Hotel that will feature, amongst other things, a massive movie screen showing the event in real time).

Despite the feel good nature of last week's news, Wednesday night's Harbor Commission hearing was not without controversy. In a move that was anything but popular with the powers that be at Maverick's Invitational Inc, the Commissioners, citing the need to make ends meet and maintain infrastructure, voted three to one increase the permitting fee necessary for the contest from last year's $20,000 price tag to $30,000.