Women have been breaking through all kinds of glass ceilings this year. This one is in the ocean.
For the first time ever, women will be among the surfers competing in the annual big wave surf contest at Mavericks this year.
Though women have surfed the famous Northern California break for years, the Titans of Mavericks surf contest has only been open to men. The invitational event brings together the some of the best big wave surfers in the world. Women have been named as alternates in the past, but this year, six women will compete in a separate hour-long heat for a $30,000 prize.
The change came about through an application process with the California Coastal Commission. When the contest organizers applied for the permit, a motion was made to open the event to women. The permit application is up for final consideration in the Coastal Commission's Nov. 2 meeting.
Meanwhile, the Titans of Mavericks competition announced the women's division in a tweet.
Big wave surfer Bianca Valenti is a regular at Mavericks, one of the best renowned big wave surfers in the world,
"Mavericks is like Mount Everest of waves," Valenti said. The water is cold and dark, and the waves can be brutal, reaching 15 feet to higher than 60 feet high during big winter swells. They can also be deadly: experienced surfers have been killed at the break.
Valenti is also part of Committee for Equity in Women's Surfing, which advocates for the inclusion of women in surfing competitions around the world. The group also includes renowned big wave surfers Keala Kennelly, Paige Alms and Andrea Moller.
"If you look at competition worldwide, there's just less opportunity for women surfers on the world scale," Valenti said.
Valenti told Alex Cohen competitions are an important of moving a sport forward and encouraging participation.
"There haven't been a ton of women who have committed themselves to surfing Mavericks over the past years but I think when given an opportunity to compete in a world-class event like this, we're going to see a lot more women stepping up to the plate and getting out there and getting after it," Valenti said. "That's what it's all about: building the community, sharing the magic and spreading the stoke."
Titans of Mavericks is held sometime between Nov. 1 and March 31, 2017—it all depends on how good the surf is.
Click the blue audio player to hear the full interview.