Under New Management: Mavericks Invitational

If Shawn Dollar says Cartel Management has his back, we believe him. Because when you wear Maverick's lips on your back, you don't trust it to just anyone. Photo: Ryan CraigIf Shawn Dollar says Cartel Management has his back, we believe him. Because when you wear Maverick’s lips on your back, you don’t trust it to just anyone. Photo: Ryan Craig

For as long as man has ridden waves, he has tried to ride as big wave as possible. And for as long as man has ridden big waves, he has tried to reach a mainstream audience in doing so. "It's so simple!" they say, before mentioning the "big wave, small person" concept and referencing the Mississippi grandma that's going to be glued to her TV as Dorian packs the inside bowl at Maverick's. But so far, nobody's really been able to deliver. The webcast is shotty. The waits are too long between waves and sometimes, the waves just aren't that big. But all you can do is keep pounding on middle-America's door and eventually somebody’s going to answer. Picture it: The screen door creaks ajar. A leery mother, in stained sweat pants with a KFC bucket clutched in her arm, says, "State yer business." The sharp-dressed man on the stoop flashes a bright — but approachable — smile and says, "Why yes, ma'am. I'm here to see if you're satisfied with the current amount of big-wave surfing you're receiving on your local cable affiliate?"

Today, the man in the suit is Griffin Guess of Cartel Management. In addition to having a terrific name and being married to supermodel Marisa Miller, Guess (via Cartel) has a grip of produced events and marketing work with brands like, Apple, NFL and Victoria Secret. He’s also put on events like the MTV Awards, Coachella and the Grammys, and produced for musicians like Kanye West, Jay-Z, Outkast and Weezer. But now, Guess is turning his attention to a celebrity that's even more moody than Yeezus — Maverick's. The announcement was made Tuesday morning that Cartel Management was taking over the Mavericks Invitational surf contest in the name of:

– Reaching a bigger audience (more TV, less webcast)
– Attracting "blue chip" sponsorship (more Apple, less NorCal Surf Shop)
– Focusing on the athletes' well being (mo' money, less problems)

I heard this news on Monday from a very excited Shawn Dollar. He told me the press release would be out on Tuesday and wanted to make sure I was aware beforehand. Great guy, that Shawn Dollar. Anyway, anticipating a vague and dry press release, I emailed Guess with a few questions about the contest. He responded promptly and with great vision for big-wave surfing. But the joke was on me. Either the guy's a pro or he's got a press-release jargon app on his computer…

SURFING: What makes Cartel more qualified to run the Maverick's event than past organizers?
Griffin Guess: Our partnership with Mavericks and this newly focused identity will establish this iconic event on a national stage for all to witness, while also adding strength and equity to the Mavericks core brand. Through our defined media and marketing partnerships, national broadcasting partners and new in-market opportunities, we will elevate this coveted wave.

What drew you to the Maverick's contest?
Living in Santa Cruz and surfing alongside such talented people drew me in at the start. I have so much respect for these guys. I would also say the potential for innovation and Cartel’s long-term vision for mobilizing Maverick’s to the forefront of American culture. It has such a great start and just needs the right core tools and muscle to reach the national audience. Secondly, the ability to help transform these athletes into valued and respected assets of the surfing industry is key. We want Maverick’s to be the launching pad that the surfers use to increase their value. It excites us. We want them to thrive along side the event.

What will Jeff Clark's role be in future events?
Jeff Clark's role will be continually evolving as we progress, harnessing his expertise at Maverick’s to advocate for his peers that will challenge the wave in the future. Celebrating Jeff's place in Maverick’s lore will help root its origin and carry this story further as we develop. The hardworking board of directors [of the Mavericks Invitational] that has empowered Cartel to carry on its legacy has done a fantastic job and we greatly respect our new colleagues and friends.

What type of sponsors are you hoping to attract?
We want to stay true to surfing and carve out endemic sponsorships, but we will also focus heavily on our current stock of blue chip and Fortune-500 brands we’ve worked with over the years. With the right brands and partnerships you can elevate any medium — just don’t get in the way of the asset which is gives the fuel. We want to let Maverick’s and these surfers tell the story, we're all just there to experience it.

If Guess can follow through on the above deliverables, this new direction for the Maverick's surf contest will be a positive step forward for big-wave surfing and big-wave surfers. Perhaps then, with all that money and all that bravado, Chas Smith's vision for big-wave surfing will finally be realized. We can only hope.

—Taylor Paul