Photo by Frank Quirarte

From, By Jake Howard:

All is not well in Half Moon Bay, Calif., and after some recent events, one has to wonder, will things ever be?

“It’s a mess,” confesses Frank Quirarte, the Water Operations Director/Logistics for the Big Wave Invitational at Mavericks. “It’ll get sorted out, it always does, but we’ve been derailed.”

During a San Mateo County Harbor Commission meeting on June 1, debate over the event’s future was reignited when the Commission dismissed the application for a 2011/12 permit submitted by Mavericks Family LLC, the group controlling the Mavericks contest, of which Quirarte is a part of.

“There was a mistake with the paperwork. It’s simply a matter of fixing it and refiling it,” says Quirarte.

Simple enough, right? But on the Mavericks Family board sits Kathrine Clark, ex-wife of Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark. Clark’s dealings concerning the contest have been turbulent in recent years. In 2009, he was removed as the event director by then-owners Mavericks Surf Ventures and he spent the past season estranged from the event despite repeated invitations from Quirarte and others to be involved.

Photo of the man, the myth, the legend Jeff Clark by Frank Quirarte

“The meeting was over, we just had to straighten out our paperwork and refile and we were good to go. Then the Commission asked for public comment and Jeff got up and spoke his mind,” says Quirarte.

“There is clearly a lack of experience in business management and large-scale event planning,” the San Jose Mercury News reported Clark as saying. “I would like to propose another choice.”

That other choice is apparently him running his own event. Clark envisions an XXL-type contest, not just held one day in the traditional format, but rather held over a series of swells throughout the winter.

According to the Mercury News, Clark envisions a contest closer in resemblance to the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards than the Quiksilver In Memory Of Eddie Aikau invitational at Waimea Bay that the original Mavericks contest was based upon. Surfers would be recorded over the course a season’s worth of swell, with a panel of judges then reviewing footage and photography to determine winners.

Leading up to the ’10/11 season, a well-publicized battled was waged between Mavericks Surf Ventures and the newly formed Mavericks Family LLC. The latter’s vision of the event, which was to be named and held in memory of the late Jay Moriarty, was positioned as a community-supported event as opposed to the profit-driven model that MSV proposed. Jeff Clark sat that skirmish out, but now he’s stirring the pot once again.

“It’s not Jeff against Katherine, we need to clarify that,” says Quirarte, responding to the Mercury News article, that framed the Clark dispute at the meeting as a ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ moment. “There’s a group of us — Flea, Skindog, Grant Washburn, Doug Acton, a whole crew of people that are really trying to put this event on the right path, and Katherine’s part of that group too.”

One potential issue with Jeff Clark’s vision for the event is that Billabong has much of the appropriate verbiage under copyright. Terms like “Best Tube” and “Worst Wipeout” can’t necessarily be used for commercial purposes, as Oakley discovered several years ago when they attempted to run a similar style contest in Australia. Rumors at the time suggested their legal bill would have been bigger than the prize purse.

Throughout the 12-year history of the contest at Mavericks there have been plenty of peaks and valleys. Sponsors have ranged from industry giant Quiksilver, to a private equity group, to Silicon Valley money. The event’s been broadcast live at AT&T Park in San Francisco. One year the webcast broke Internet records; the next year, the webcast tower was washed off the beach. Fans have fallen off the cliff, others have been dragged out to sea. In March of 2010, Shawn Dollar was bagged a 55-foot giant — a wave that stands as the biggest wave ever ridden in competition.

“You begin to wonder, when’s all this going to just go away so we can run a surf contest?” inquires Quirarte.

As always, time will tell. The San Mateo County Harbor Commission has set a deadline for permits in August. Stay tuned.

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