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Women have been a part of competitive surfing for decades, but only rarely have they been included in big wave contests.
That may be changing. Last week, a big barrier fell as Titans of Mavericks, one of the world’s premier big wave contests held in Half Moon Bay, announced that it would add a women’s heat for the first time in its 17-year history.
“It’s really exciting,” said Bianca Valenti, a top surfer in San Francisco who campaigned for the change. “It’s super important for the progression of the sport.”
The move by Mavericks came after the World Surf League announced a separate decision in April that it would introduce a women’s championship event on its big wave tour.
Ultimately, it took the state to force the change at Titans of Mavericks, which was known in its early years as the “Men Who Ride Mountains” contest.
The decision by Cartel Management, the company that owns the tournament, followed a campaign over the last year by a small group of female surfers along with Sabrina Brennan, a San Mateo County harbor commissioner.
Organized under the banner “Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing,” the surfers pressured California’s Coastal Commission into demanding that Mavericks add a women’s heat or risk losing its permit to hold the event.
The campaign worked.
Brian Waters, chief operating officer at Cartel, said part of the hesitation to add another heat until now had been logistical.
Even without the women’s heat, he said, organizers have to scramble to pull off the one-day event, which is held on short notice a half-mile from shore when the right conditions coalesce — monster swells, low wind, clear sky — from Nov. 1 to March 31.
Still, now that it’s happening, everyone involved with the competition is stoked, he said. The invitation-only heat will include six female surfers competing for a $30,000 purse.
“We’re so glad to have this to showcase how females charge big waves,” Mr. Waters said.