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Surfer Says Ex-Pals Swiped His Contest

(CN) - Surfer Jeff Clark, discoverer of the Mavericks big-wave spot near Half Moon Bay, claims his business partners stole the annual Mavericks surf contest after he had set it up and run it alone for 11 years. Clark says he discovered Mavericks in 1975, a spot half a mile out to sea that is the only place off the continental United States that regularly generates waves higher than 20 feet.

In his complaint in San Francisco Superior Court, Clark says he surfed Mavericks alone for 13 years before founding an annual international surfing competition there in 1998.

The conditions at Mavericks are so variable that the competition date can never be planned in advance, Clark says.

Instead, the year's 24 invited contestants wait on alert while Clark uses information from satellites, buoy readings of Pacific Ocean waves and local weather forecasts to "call" the competition date. The surfers then have 48 hours to travel to Half Moon Bay.

Clark says he ran the competition himself for 11 years, until he partnered with Evolve Sports Management in 2003, a company owned by nonsurfers Keir Beadling and Doug Epstein, in an effort to expand competition organizing efforts.

In 2007, Clark says, Beadling and Epstein "insisted on replacing the limited liability company with Mavericks Surf Ventures Inc."

Beadling, Clark and Mark Dwight each took a director's seat, while Clark remained the contest director. Beadling became the CEO and Epstein was its secretary, president and CFO, the lawsuit states.

Despite promises to avoid "excessive commercialization," Clark says the trio quickly transformed the competition from an event marked by "history, traditions and respect for the ocean" into an event run by people with "no interest in surfing other than as a source of corporate and personal profit."

Clark says Beadling, Dwight and Epstein fired him in June 2009, took complete control of the contest, and spread rumors to discredit him.

He says they kept using his name and picture to promote the contest, in which Clark says he no longer had any participation, except as a shareholder of Mavericks Surf Ventures.

Clark claims they diluted his 50 percent ownership of the corporation by issuing additional stock to their friends without telling him.

He claims they made huge "consulting" payments to Evolve, used his name after they fired him to secure sponsors, and traded on his reputation with the surfing community to promote the 2009 competition without him.

Clark sued Beadling, Epstein, Dwight, Mavericks Surf Ventures and Evolve Sports Management, demanding damages for fraud, publicity rights violations and breaches of fiduciary duty.

He is represented by Richard Mooney with Liner Grode Stein.

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