Hours before putting the event on Orange Alert, monitoring a possible XXL swell set to arrive in the coming days, The Titans of Mavericks big-wave event announced the six female chargers that will be competing in this year’s women’s heat, an hour-long battle at the fabled Northern California monster for a whopping $30,000 purse. The women’s heat is the first of its kind, and a big step forward for women’s big-wave surfing, as well as for equality in surfing in the broadest sense.
Competing in this year’s event will be Brazilian Andrea Moller, a member of the The Committee for Equity in Women's Surfing who was nominated in 2014 for a XXL Award for her performance at Pe’ahi that year; Maui regularfoot and Jaws standout, Paige Alms, whose 2015 Pe’ahi barrel earned her international recognition; 2016 Pure Scot Barrel Winner and perennial hellwoman, Keala Kennelly; Santa Cruz standout Jamilah Star; Mavs pioneer Sarah Gerhardt; and, rounding out the international lineup, Emily Erickson, “The Queen of Sunset Beach” and daughter of big-wave legend, Roger Erickson.
The announcement last month that the event would include a women’s heat came after much controversy, and after a several-year campaign by female big-wave surfers and allies alike. In fact, San Mateo Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan took up the cause as her own, and made it a major part of her campaign platform.
"Organizers would show up at meetings with their attorneys and just stare at you with a menacing look," Brennan told The New York Times regarding early talks of women inclusion. "It was intimidating."
Previous years saw the event include women as alternates, more a gesture than an act. Though the Titans’ decision to bring women into the fold before 2017/2018 has been positive, the method hasn’t been without its dispute (can any decisions be made at Mavs that don’t start a shitstorm?). Absent from the six-competitor list is Mavericks regular and campaign leader Bianca Valenti, a near-obvious pick who has surely been a thorn in the side of the more stubborn of Titans’ organizers. Valenti’s currently the first alternate in the event, with New Jersey-native Wrenna Delgado second. Invitee Andrea Moller took to Facebook to voice her confusion:
“I'm more then honored to be invited to the @titansofmavericks… but there is something very important missing here… Where is Bianca Valenti???
It was Bianca who gave me full support to surf Mavericks every single year I went there. She was the one who hosted and taught me the safe way to surf Maverick’s cold challenging wave. This is not just a personal feeling… Maybe NO women would have been invited if it wasn't for her fight. Politics aside, she is one of the top chargers at Mavericks. She is the local girl who has been making a difference for all the women hungry to compete.
It would be like excluding Paige Alms from a Peahi challenge. Would that be fair? I know some guys understand what I'm talking about… pioneers are excluded… with the excuse that there are better surfers ahead of them in the list… but in this case, Bianca knows those waters and has caught more waves out there then any of us. I'm here not just as a surfer, but also as someone who wants to make a difference for the next generation. Competing at Mavericks is a huge achievement for the women. But please, lets make this fair.” (sic)
The waiting period for the Titans of Mavericks event runs from Nov 1, 2016 – Mar 31, 2017.