Cartel Management and owner Griffin Guess have taken on the Mavericks brand and its renowned surfing competition, the Mavericks Invitational. Mavericks pioneer and long-time surfer Jeff Clark has seen his former stomping grounds become a showcase spot for the world's most talented surfers. The invitational brings together 24 surfers to see who can outlast mother nature. Guess and the team at Cartel are looking to make Mavericks, now on its 15th installment, a household name.
Since it was announced, the partnership has garnered much praise from not only the Mavericks brand but also from the surfers, a key component of the deal moving forward. Guess understands that surfing has an ever-expanding fan base and, like friend Shawn Dollar has done on multiple occasions, he plans on riding this wave to the top.
“Speaking with Griffin and knowing what he’s capable of, [I expect] a big rise in prize purse,” says Mavericks Big Wave record holder, Shawn Dollar. “[He] always focuses on the athletes. People are excited and there will be more eyes on the contest.”
Mavericks is a popular surfing destination located two miles off Pillar Point Harbor, in San Mateo County, Calif., just north of Half Moon Bay. Surfing can be an extremely hazardous profession but that danger is what Big Wave surfers thrive on. Any miscalculation can reap painful and sometimes tragic consequences. The large swells at Mavericks have claimed the lives of both Mark Foo and Sion Milosky. Those tragedies have not deterred surfers from attempting to conquer waves that top out at over 80 feet high.
"Building this event around talent safety is a really big goal. All surfers have water safety partners," says Griffin. "The core safety staff has a secondary set of eyes on you. There are eyes on the beach."
Safety is one of the most important components of his partnership with Mavericks. Guess has been a long-time admirer of Big Wave surfing; which is why he initially met with the board of directors of the invitational. His experience advocating for top-flight athletes and musicians has contributed to his ability to create a successful partnership.
“When I was approached by Griffin, his concern for the talent was front and center. Protecting the livelihood of the athletes was the very first thing that gravitated me towards Cartel,” says Board of Directors member Brian Overleft.
The Mavericks brand was spearheaded by owner and legendary big wave surfer Jeff Clark. Back in 1975, Clark and a childhood friend were preparing to navigate the waters of an area located two miles off the shore near Pillar Point Harbor. The area, called Mavericks, only sees waves of this magnitude during the winter, when a big storm forms in the Gulf of Alaska. Since then, the world’s boldest surfers, such as Chris Bertish, Grant Washburn, and 2014 invitational winner Grant Baker have flocked to Mavericks.
The Mavericks Invitational has been running for fourteen years and has produced a multitude of winners and has played host to participants from South Africa and Australia. It has also been canceled in both 2007 and 2009 because of the lack of waves.
Moving forward, Cartel’s task is to expose the world of surfing to different areas of the country and to protect the integrity of the Mavericks Invitational and the athletes involved. Having grown up in San Diego and having been exposed to the sport in his teens, Guess plans on bringing the tales of dedication, risk and reward to the forefront of the sports media landscape.
“Our goal in doing this is to keep it authentic. We don’t want to hand it commercialized; our goal is to really harness the community. We’re excited about our potential new broadcasting partners and media underwriting partners,” emphasizes Guess. “Cartel’s vision, along with along with feedback from Jeff [Clark], Shawn [Dollar], Ken Collins, Grant Baker and Greg Long is to be able to tell stories and show why this is such a radical event. Action sports have been able to do that well and that’s what’s been missing here.
Next year’s installment promises to be a big leap forward and in a sport based on weighing risk versus reward, Guess knows a thing or two about gambling.
“When snowboarding with a friend in Breckenridge, Colorado, we decided to try a front flip over a cliff that seemed to be 70 feet but in reality was only 18 feet,” said Guess. “I know my limits [laughs].”