Mavericks Invitational, Inc., the company lead by Half Moon Bay veteran big-wave surfer Jeff Clark and four other members of its board of directors representing the business, surfing, and local resident communities, won approval from the San Mateo County Harbor Commission Wednesday night for their bid to run the 2011-2012 Mavericks surfing contest.
Clark, who is said after the meeting that he was pleased with the decision.
"I feel really good about this year's contest, and the group of people we've put together to run it," he said. The group has renamed the 2011-2012 contest as The Mavericks Big Wave Invitational.
While obtaining the contest permit was good news — the "golden ticket," as Santa Cruz professional big-wave surfer and Mavericks Invitational board member Ken Collins put it — the 's move to unexpectedly raise the cost of the permit by $10,000 was a sticking point.
Two months ago, the District quoted the cost of the Mavericks surf contest permit at $20,000.
Members of Mavericks Invitational's Board of Directors spoke to the Harbor Commissioners about what they felt was an unfair hike on the permit fees compared to what the district charged others.
"There's an event this weekend at the harbor with 500 people," said Rocky Raynor, Mavericks Invitational board member, referring to this Sunday's debut .
"Their permit cost $250," he said. "Ours is $30,000."
Raynor, who is also the head coach of the surf club at in Half Moon Bay, said that the Mavericks Invitational's plan involves bringing in revenue to the Harbor District through paid parking and through the group's plan to generate income for harbor businesses by granting viewing rights for the contest at local establishments.
"The district doesn't have a rigid standard schedule for events like these," said Peter Grenell, General Manager of the San Mateo County Harbor District.
Grenell said that the $250 fee is a standard district administrative fee, so it could not be compared to the $30,000 use fee charged for the surf contest.
"We’re aware that the financial benefits are very large and widespread," Grenell said, citing a study conducted by the University of Hawaii which concluded that the Mavericks surf contest brought in $24 million to the area.
"The Harbor District does not share in that except it may get some percentage revenue from a few businesses in the harbor," he said.
The Harbor District needs "to make ends meet," Grenell said, citing the district's financial strain.
Jeff Clark voiced his concerns about the fee increase.
"Watching this permit fee grow has put questions in our mind," he said. "I think there needs to be some balance and look at this homegrown group now with control of this event. Moving forward, we’re going to need to have you as partners in this event as well."
Harbor Commissioner Robert Bernardo voiced concern that the increased fee was too high, and that he wanted to know more about what determined the amount of the fee.
Cassandra Clark, Mavericks Invitational board member, suggested that the group could make up for the $10,000 increase in fees in the long term with the harbor and pay the original $20,000 fee instead.
But Grenell and Commissioner James Tucker said they felt it was important for the Harbor District to bring in the $30,000 revenue.
Grenell cited the district's concern over use and activity during the contest on the Mavericks trail which leads to Mavericks Beach. "The trail is badly eroding," he said, saying that the district will need to fund an engineer to survey the area and that the contest would impact that area.
Collins and Raynor said the impact on the trail would be minimal, given Mavericks Invitational's plan to keep spectators off the trail and bluffs with the assistance of a separate security company. Spectators, they said, would watch the contest at a Mavericks surf "festival" in the large parking lot area in front of the .
"The Harbor District, quite frankly, looks for money anywhere we can get it," Tucker said. "While $30,000 seems high, this event is for profit. At the end of the contest if you can show us the cost was too much, we would like to work wth you to lower costs," he said.
With that stipulation as part of the motion to assess the $30,000 permit fee, the harbor commissioners voted 3-1, with Pietro Parravano as the lone dissenter (Commissioner Sally Campbell was absent).
Parravano said he felt the $30,000 fee was too high.
After the meeting, Jeff Clark remained positive about the evening's outcome.
"We're going to roll with it," he said in response to the commission's decision not to lower the fee to its original cost.
"We're going to move forward and take the shift off all this political stuff," he said.
"This is the best group that has come together to put on this contest," Clark said. "We're looking forward to putting together an amazing event that will benefit the surfers and the community."