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Here's why Twiggy Baker was banned from the Mavericks event:

Words by Jake Howard | Photos by Frank Quirarte

Grant “Twiggy” Baker has been banned from the 2015 big-wave contest at Maverick’s and it’s not okay.

The call was made by Cartel Management, the group currently holding the license for the Mavs contest, and its decision-making body, the “Committee 5,” which includes Jeff Clark, Darryl “Flea” Virostko, Matt Ambrose, Shawn Rhodes and Ion Banner. When reached for comment, Cartel offered only a boilerplate, prepared press statement:

“Grant Baker was removed from the 2015 event season by the unanimous vote of the Committee 5. Their difficult decision came by recognizing that he violated certain criteria benchmarks which were in direct violation(s) of not only the procedural protocol set by the organization itself, but on a deeper level put other athletes and their involvement at risk by being associated with a petition in which was circulating on the behalf of Mr. Baker to challenge the C5’s decision on matters pertaining to the framework of their event protocol for the selection process.”

It reads like it came from a Republican presidential candidate. Nowhere is there any semblance of an answer in regards to what Twig, a two-time and the defending Mavs champion, actually did to deserve getting the boot. At best it’s vague, offering little to no clarity on the subject. Cartel fails to explain how Twig “violated certain criteria benchmarks” and then “put other athletes and their involvement at risk.” They also fail to provide exactly what said criteria is. There’s mention of Twig circulating a petition, but again, Cartel fails to expand on what the subject of the petition was.

Josh_Loya_Frank-Quirarte Josh Loya, one of the real Mavs OGs. When it comes to the event here, recent years have featured too much dry drama, and not enough wet drama. Photo: Frank Quirarte

Hoping to fill in some of the blanks, Stab reached out to several well-placed sources in Northern California to find out what’s behind the one-year ban. According to our sources, the story begins a couple of years ago when WSL CEO Paul Speaker and Big Wave World Tour Commissioner Peter Mel made a trip to Half Moon Bay to try and incorporate the Maverick’s contest into the BWWT schedule. Negotiations fell through and as a result, Mel, another former Mavs champ, was removed from the invite list due to what our source has called “a trumped up ‘conflict of interest.’”

Today, Maverick’s pioneer Jeff Clark broke the silence and made a comment on Facebook defending his and the Committee 5’s actions against Mel.

“(sic) It is ok to speak your mind, not ok to try and undermine all the work many have put in to make this happen,” wrote Clark. “Try to bring in the wsl who doesn’t care at all for our community or the surfers. Just look around the world at what they have done, why he jumped on their band wagon to take any local input away from Mavericks is mind-blowing to me. It was unanimous that he be removed. It is to bad cause he is a great big wave surfer, to bad his greatness overshadowed his respect for his mates and our event.”

Clark then followed that comment up by saying, “Roger Goodell is the NFL commissioner, it would be a conflict if he played against players he governs. Pete is a commissioner, he would have unfair influence to surf against surfers he governs. It is pretty simple and if you don’t get that there are endless examples to learn from in all professional sports.”

Darrly_Flea_Virostko_Mavericks_Photo _Frank_Quirarte Darryl 'Flea' Virostko, part of the Mavs governing body, the Committee 5. Photo: Frank Quirarte

Poor grammar and even worse example aside, in the void left by Mel and the WSL, Cartel Management, an L.A.-based “boutique management company representing supermodels, athletes and musicians,” was able to get their name on the license, which was held by a group, including Clark, called the Mavericks Invitational. Cartel got their name on the license, rebranded the event as the “Titans of Mavericks” and created the Committee 5.

In recent months, Twiggy had allegedly been campaigning to get Cartel to reinstate Mel back into the event. Based on our sources and what can be gleaned from Cartel’s own statement, Twig went so far as to circulate a petition amongst the surfers in the event with the hope that they’d support Mel’s reinstatement. Read between the lines of Cartel’s statement and what they’re saying is that Twiggy challenged decisions made by the Committee 5, they didn’t like it, and as a result he’s being punished. Mind you, all of this transpired without Twig airing his grievances publicly. Proving to be a champion in character as well as in the water, he didn’t take to social media or other more traditional media outlets to blast Cartel. Instead, he took the high road and appears to have kept his disagreement internal.

“I continue to support the Mavericks contest and hope that nothing further effects the event negatively in any way as this would be unfair on the other surfers involved,” said Twig when asked to comment for this story. “These contests are all about who is invited, rather than who isn’t.”

Matt_Becker_Frank-Quirarte Matt Becker going in. Is there a more thrilling type of big wave photo than the air drop captured from the shoulder? Doubtful. Photo: Frank Quirarte

A noble gesture, but Twig still deserves to be in the event. And for that matter, Mel does too. Should somebody like Dave Wassell be in the draw instead of them? Certainly not knocking Wassell; he’s a legend, and a master on the mic, but the time, energy and sacrifices Twig and Mel have made at Mavs is indisputable.

Meanwhile, Cartel has been plagued by scandal since getting involved in the Maverick’s contest. They’re currently embroiled in a lawsuit with former contest sponsor Body Glove. In 2013, a three-year contract was signed between Body Glove and Mavericks Invitational, the original license holder, that gave Body Glove top billing as the title sponsor. But after Cartel took over last year, Body Glove attorneys argue they made an “indefensible, wholesale breach of the agreement.” Cartel representatives allegedly sidelined Body Glove as they shopped around for other sponsors. They also removed Body Glove’s name and logo from the website and other related media. The case is currently being heard in Los Angeles Superior Court.

There is also an ongoing lawsuit between Cartel and longtime Mavs local and former Mavericks Invitational board member, Rocky Raynor.

The Maverick’s contest first took place in 1999 and has run nine times since. Controversy and drama have always surrounded it. To exclude Mel because you’re in a pissing match with the WSL is one thing, but to bar Twiggy for simply making his voice heard… that’s just poor form.

Pete_Renew Pete Mel, Mavs champ, wearer of WSL-sanctioned scarfs, and absolute legend. Certainly deserving of an invite to the Mavs event. Photo: Chachi

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