Bankruptcy filings threaten to wipe out this season’s Mavericks surfing contest

Dwarfed by a giant
Participants in a Mavericks surfing contest near Half Moon Bay.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Two companies that manage the Mavericks big wave contest are seeking to restructure their debts in bankruptcy court, raising questions about whether the world-famous surfing event will happen this year.

Cartel Management Inc. and Titans of Mavericks LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Los Angeles division of U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday. The filing allows Cartel and Titans to develop a reorganization plan to keep their operations going while paying off creditors over time.

According to court records, Cartel faces claims of about $1.9 million and Titans of Mavericks faces more than $776,335 in claims from their top 20 creditors. Some of the debt appears to be shared.

“It remains to be seen how this will all shake down,” said Cassandra Clark, a board member for Mavericks Invitational Inc., a separate organization. “We look forward to learning more.”


The contest generally occurs between November and March, depending on the size of the surf and weather conditions. Despite the large swells that hit Mavericks in November and January, the contest has not yet been held.

The big wave venue is located off rugged Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay. The contest, which has been run nine times since 1998, is invitation-only and usually features 24 top surfers from around the world. When huge surf arrives, competitors get 48 hours’ notice to report for the one-day event. 

If held, this year’s contest would for the first time include a heat for women. The California Coastal Commission, which issues permits for the event, required Titans of Mavericks to allow female entrants for the 2016-17 wave season.

San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan, who has worked to get women into the contest, said the event probably won’t happen this year because of the financial problems.


The commission also issues permits for the competition. Court records state that Titans of Mavericks owes the San Mateo County Harbor District about $6,700. 

“Logistically, I don’t see how this is going to happen, and I don’t see another group coming in and getting the permits,” Brennan said. “This will be super disappointing for the contestants. As you know, this was the first year for women to compete.”

In a news release, the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing said the group suspected there were problems.

“There were two days with perfect conditions in November and one day in January but no contest was called,” the release said. “What a let down.”

Cartel Management and the firm’s attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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