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Scorned surfer Bianca Valenti on a mission

Tue, 8 Nov 2016 23:52:03 UT

Valenti surfs Mavericks more often than any woman in the world, but she was named only a first alternate to the event. Because she has been a strident voice in favor of the women’s big-wave surf movement, there was speculation that the contest organizers, Cartel Management, left her out for political reasons. There has been so much outrage from the women’s surf community over Valenti’s exclusion, it seems possible she could surf the Mavericks contest after all — perhaps as part of a seven-woman heat. In the wake of Cartel’s announcement, Valenti has surfed big, beautiful Mavericks twice and the challenging Ocean Beach twice in near-maximum conditions. The idea at “Jaws” is to run the women’s heats with the swell either on the rise or the decrease, leaving the maximum-size waves to the men (an agreement that has brought no complaints from the women, due to Peahi’s extremely dangerous conditions) over a two-day period.

Cal, Stanford and their opposite paths

Mon, 7 Nov 2016 16:54:25 UT

The Big Game should be especially nutty this year, and it looms as a potential turning point in head coach Sonny Dykes’ tenure at Cal. The relentless Washington Huskies steamrolled Cal 66-27 to remain unbeaten (9-0) and demand respect in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings. Cal’s defensive backs were mercilessly torched by quarterback Jake Browning, the Huskies rolled up 704 total yards, and Cal’s defense — good lord, is it awful — was about like always. (Silly you, wondering about the starting time; of course it’s 7:30 p.m.) The Cougars took early losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State but have matched Washington’s 6-0 conference record. The Bears need two wins in their final three games to qualify for a bowl, and if they lose to WSU, that means taking down Stanford (Nov. 19) and UCLA (Nov. 26) in consecutive weeks. Sources indicate that the starting time for the Big Game, a special event that brings together Bay Area friends, associates and families in a mood of high anticipation, won’t be announced until a week ahead of time. Though Webb was typically prolific Saturday night, unleashing his arm 47 times, Stanford closed out its victory over Oregon State with 29 consecutive running plays. Shaw made a plausible point afterward, saying the plays were working, as well as burning up the clock, and besides, he loves that sort of thing. Shaw felt compelled to replace Ryan Burns after the first seven games, and Keller Chryst hasn’t been an improvement (just 60 passing yards against OSU). Oddly ranked fifth by the CFP committee last week behind a team with one loss (Texas A&M), the Huskies realized they can’t ease up for the rest of the season, not even for a second, if they want one of the four playoff spots. Washington is unbeaten in the Pac-12, operating an NFL-level passing game and absolutely crushing people.

Mavericks permit extended 1 year, women added to contest

Thu, 3 Nov 2016 16:11:18 UT

[...] Cartel Management got a slap on the wrist, and one of surfing’s most popular big-wave surfers found herself on the outside. Seeking a four-year extension of its permit to hold the event, Cartel was instead granted merely a one-year extension and told to “come up with a plan,” in the words of Commissioner Mark Vargas. Somewhat disheartening, to those familiar with the local scene, was the exclusion of San Francisco’s Bianca Valenti, who was named first alternate behind two of the first women surfers to ride Mavericks, Sarah Gerhardt and Jamilah Star, and Hawaiian standouts Keala Kennelly, Paige Alms, Emy Erickson and Andrea Moller. Despite having a year to develop a coherent plan,” said Susan Jordan, director of the California Coastal Protection Network, “Cartel came in at the last minute and has only now attempted to construct one. Mavericks surfer Savannah Shaughnessy, who will be out at least a year because of knee surgery, and photographer Nikki Brooks, who has shot big-wave surfing for years. “There are only a handful of women who are able to surf Mavericks at this level,” said contest board member Cassandra Clark.

Cal crushed by relentless USC, 45-24

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 06:46:40 UT

Cal took the field as the Pac-12’s worst team in rushing yardage allowed, at 270 per game, and USC (5-3, 4-2 Pac-12) parlayed a 260-yard first half into 398 rushing yards for the night and a staggering 629 yards total. [...] went the Bears’ 13th straight loss to the Trojans and a potentially grim outlook for the rest of the season. Quarterback Davis Webb had his moments in defeat, completing 34 of 53 passes for 333 yards with touchdown hookups to Tre Watson and Melquise Stovall, but he was no match for his counterpart’s pure efficiency. USC’s student body aside, there were thousands of empty seats in every section of the storied Memorial Coliseum — perhaps a fitting turnout for an episode of little suspense. Jones’ 61-yarder triggered a drive that climaxed impressively when Darnold, a major factor in the Trojans’ revival since replacing Max Browne, threw a 3-yard touchdown strike to Darreus Rogers. Darnold tossed a screen pass to a wide-open Jones for a 16-yard touchdown, and although the rain had yet to arrive, it felt as if a storm was unloading on Cal’s ever-vulnerable defense. By forcing a fumble and then recovering one, he set up Webb’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Watson and a 27-yard field goal by Matt Anderson.

Little hope for change in Pac-12 scheduling

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 06:27:42 UT

LOS ANGELES — As the Pac-12 schedule grinds on, frustrated fans wonder if there’s any future relief from night games, weekday matchups and undisclosed starting times. Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the media before Thursday night’s game, issuing reminders that the television contract — approved by university chancellors savoring the financial windfall — runs through 2024 and, “There’s not a lot of flexibility.” Asked about Cal players facing back-to-back weeknight games during a particularly demanding academic stretch, Scott said, That hasn’t been a parameter, academic schedules per se, so it hasn’t come up at any of our discussions. Any words of encouragement for fans who cherish afternoon games? Try to fathom quarterback Aaron Rodgers being replaced, or the Bears handing USC its only loss of the season — 34-31 in triple overtime at Memorial Stadium in 2003. Reggie Robertson had won the Bears’ quarterback job at the start of the season, and although he lost it to Rodgers, Robertson entered in the third quarter after a Rodgers interception and kept Cal in the game. Rodgers would lead Cal to an 8-6 finish, including a 52-49 victory over Virginia Tech in the Insight Bowl. USC wound up 12-1, beat Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl and earned the season-ending No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.

Previewing Cal’s big test at USC

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:04:28 UT

The Trojans are revitalized and, unlike the defensively challenged Bears, can be exceptional on both sides of the ball. Nobody expects the Bears to catch Washington or Washington State in this division — both teams are 4-0 — but it would earn the Bears some national attention and keep alive their hopes for a postseason bowl appearance (it takes six overall wins; Cal is 4-3 going in). Favorite receiver Chad Hansen, so supremely efficient on pass routes, difficult catches and field awareness, is expected to return from an ankle injury. A fierce storm (at least by L.A. standards) is forecast to arrive sometime tonight, and if it starts raining during the game, the running game will be crucial for both sides. If the Bears continue their recent success — Khalfani Muhammad has rushed for 313 yards over the last two games, Tre Watson 288 — who knows?

NBA Western Conference preview

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 04:39:29 UT

NBA Western Conference preview NBA Western Conference preview L.A. CLIPPERS (53-29): Can’t understand the preseason excitement about a team that never quite delivers. Hopelessly incompetent owner Vivek Ranadive not accountable for anything. L.A. LAKERS (17-65): The players have energetically bought into Luke Walton’s approach. SAN ANTONIO (67-15): Head coach Gregg Popovich calls the Warriors “an anomaly” in that nobody can match their small-ball game. Harrison Barnes fighting heavy skepticism as a go-to guy, which the Mavs want. Hope for the playoffs if Marc Gasol and Mike Conley somehow stay healthy. New head coach Dave Fizdale was once a Warriors assistant. HOUSTON (41-41): It’s all up to James Harden, who says he wants to pass the ball (he’s got the skills) and play defense. Chances of that over 82 games: none, assuming it’s just an average club and vulnerable to malaise. NEW ORLEANS (30-52): Anthony Davis is hurt again (ankle), and that’s a disturbing pattern. [...] though, this halfcourt offense is bound to stall. PORTLAND (44-38): Damian Lillard says he’s too proud to join a “super team,” and he has a dynamite partner in C.J.McCollum, but the Blazers need some work. Injuries to Favors and Gordon Hayward slowed the preseason buzz, but this team is a threat, having added Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and efficient PG George Hill. MINNESOTA (29-53): The NBA’s best up-and-coming team with Karl-Anthony Towns already a prime-time center.

NBA Eastern Conference preview

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 04:32:39 UT

NBA Eastern Conference preview Dwight Howard is back home, boldly defying his critics, but he’s a demand-the-ball guy who has no post-up game — and head coach Mike Budenholzer likes a blur of offensive movement. Al Horford is gone, and point guard Dennis Schroder will make ’em miss the departed Jeff Teague. CHARLOTTE (48-34): One look at the center position (Roy Hibbert, or possibly Cody Zeller) and it’s instant gloom. [...] there will be special moments from Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who returns from shoulder surgery. Making Frank Kaminsky the ninth overall pick (2015) sounded risky at the time, and little has changed. TORONTO (56-26): Built around the dynamic DeMar DeRozan-Kyle Lowry backcourt once again, but the Raptors’ streak of division titles will end at three. [...] head coach Jeff Hornacek got a tremendous break when Phil Jackson said he wouldn’t have to play the triangle offense. Lin shouldn’t be that vital on any team, but this could mark a career rebirth under new head coach Ken Atkinson, an assistant during “Linsanity” in New York. The mood will brighten considerably if the supremely talented Joel Embiid, who has missed two seasons with foot problems, fulfills his preseason promise. Mike Dunleavy’s a nice addition for three-point shooting. Kyrie Irving intends to be the NBA’s top point guard, no questions asked. Andre Drummond needs to improve on that 35 percent free-throw shooting. MILWAUKEE (33-49): The league’s most intriguing experiment: 6-10 Giannis Antetokounmpo running the offense as a point guard-forward. With Khris Middleton out, recently acquired Tony Snell becomes the starter at shooting guard.

It’s an all-Maui affair in Heavy Water event

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 06:13:10 UT

The thrills came early, but perhaps most impressive was the finish of Wednesday’s Red Bull Heavy Water event, an 8-mile stand-up paddling endurance test from Ocean Beach to the St. Francis Yacht Club. After more than an hour of punishing physical challenge — too much for some of the competitors to handle — three men from Maui powered their way to finish at full throttle, looking as if they had plenty to spare. Victorious Connor Baxter, second-place Kai Lenny and third-place Zane Schweitzer have been friends and competitors since they were kids on Maui, each proficient in multiple disciplines. The original 40-man field was diminished because of travel commitments when the race was delayed a day, and three competitors failed to complete the race. [...] 20 grand is good money in the surfing world, and endurance paddling is something these athletes would do for free. Surveying the launching spot at the north end of the Great Highway around 11 a.m., an exuberant Lenny proclaimed, We’ll have some carnage out there. With a solid swell in progress, the competitors had to paddle out through the treacherous Ocean Beach shorebreak three times before heading northward to the Golden Gate Bridge. Baxter, still running up the beach, decided to paddle out about 30 yards north of Lenny, and the decision paid off. Smiling and gracious in defeat, Lenny looked reasonably tired but hardly exhausted — a near-inconceivable state after what he called a total grind.

Ocean Beach paddle race postponed

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:08:01 UT

The Red Bull Heavy Water event, an international stand-up paddling race launching at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, has been postponed until Wednesday at noon. The surf and weather conditions were favorable on Tuesday morning, but according to a Red Bull spokesman, the event was postponed due to “unforeseen circumstances” and will “definitely” run on Wednesday.

Flying-high Cubs hope to stay grounded

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 02:21:22 UT

The 2012 World Series opened at AT&T Park to the sights and sounds of Pablo Sandoval home runs, Barry Zito curveballs, Tim Lincecum working relief and Madison Bumgarner nailing down Game 2 with seven innings of two-hit ball. Feeling eminently confident, they stormed through two wins in Detroit and shut down the Series before it ever gained serious intrigue. Game 1 winner Jon Lester has spoken openly about winning the World Series and how the Cubs and their fans would react to their first title since 1908. After Game 2, catcher David Ross said, “We’re not your typical best team in baseball” because the Cubs never seem to win the same way twice. [...] there is outright hilarity when it comes to Travis Wood, the relief pitcher who hit a roaring Game 2 home run. There’s nothing like a festive party on team flights with a big victory in hand. After the Giants’ dramatic 3-0 win over the Mets in the wild-card playoff game, they were delayed by traffic for two hours before reaching the airport, but it hardly dimmed the mood. Witnesses said that once the players got settled in the air en route to Chicago, they began firing pillows at each other.

Giants’ Mike Krukow will make Chicago trip

Thu, 6 Oct 2016 22:30:40 UT

Wrigley Field has become his personal nightmare, but the Giants-Cubs playoff series has come calling. Giants fans should feel confident that, barring a catastrophe, Krukow will join Duane Kuiper in the radio booth for Friday night’s Game 1, sounding just as enthusiastic as ever. Stairs are an entirely different story, particularly heading down. Because there is so little foundation in his legs, he needs to grip a railing and summon all of his arm strength to ease his way through it. Virtually all major-league ballparks have elevators and ramps to aid the disabled, but Wrigley is a glaring exception. [...] that the Giants have survived the wild-card playoff game, on a Madison Bumgarner masterpiece and Conor Gillaspie’s three-run homer against the Mets, Krukow knows he can’t stay away.

Things to know as Giants invade L.A.

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 01:42:19 UT

Culberson, a first-round draft pick by the Giants in 2007, played just six games in San Francisco before being traded to Colorado for Marco Scutaro (heck of a deal) in July of 2012. 1 in S.F.. [...] there’s no reason the Giants can’t take advantage of a massive advantage in starting pitching. Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, Scott Kazmir and Brett Anderson, the latter two being placed on the disabled list Tuesday afternoon. Anderson, who was scheduled to start Thursday’s game here (that’s undecided now), has pitched in just two games this season (24.75 ERA) and is dealing with a blister on his left index finger. Kazmir experienced back and neck stiffness during a disastrous outing in Cincinnati on Monday — he wasn’t able to comfortably turn his head to the right side and look at the plate — and hit the D.L. after a Tuesday examination. If the Giants allow this tortured staff to prevail in the N.L. West, especially if Kershaw is unable to return...well, there just wouldn’t be any excuse for that. With Reddick already in the mix, replacing Puig in right field, it would seem there’s no room for the troubled Cuban outfielder. Andrew Toles, who started in right field (due to Reddick’s hand injury) on Monday and belted his first major-league homer.

With Reddick, Dodgers gain edge on Giants

Mon, 1 Aug 2016 18:38:09 UT

Reddick finally got his freedom, dealt to the Dodgers hours before the trading deadline — along with pitcher Rich Hill — for three right-handed pitchers in the minor leagues: Surely they are numb to the reality by now, but it always hurts to lose someone whose character and all-out play had become so endearing. For the moment, Reddick is a Dodger, adding much-needed depth to a team trying to chase down the Giants over the final two months. The Dodgers managed to swing this deal without giving up either of their top two pitching prospects, Julio Urias and Jose DeLeon. The centerpiece for Oakland is Cotton, who posted a disturbing 4.90 ERA in the Pacific Coast League, but that’s a hitters’ paradise.

Ageless Venus heads the field at Stanford

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 02:52:51 UT

The Bank of the West tournament is always good for some high-class tennis in the pristine setting of Stanford’s Taube Family Tennis Stadium, but the field is looking a bit vacant this year. The spotlight shines directly upon Venus Williams, who stands a fair chance of winning her 50th career title, in the event beginning Monday. In 1994, when the event was held at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, she made her professional debut at 14 and beat the world’s 58th-ranked player, Shaun Stafford, in her first match. [...] she has reached the final seven times, winning in 2000 and 2002. The No. 2 seed is Dominika Cibulkova, a Bank of the West champion (2013) and ranked 12th, thanks partly to a win at the Eastbourne grass-court tournament and a quarterfinal showing at Wimbledon. The tournament hasn’t lost a bit of its reputation — players say they enjoy the setting — but a number of factors contributed to the paltry field. “The Olympics is such a highlight, but at the same time, it’s important to play tournaments so you can continue with success on the tour,” Williams told reporters on a conference call. Remarkably, this will be Venus’ fifth Olympics, and she also will enter the doubles with her sister, Serena, the two of them bursting with confidence after winning the Wimbledon doubles title and staking a claim as the best women’s team in history. Bellis, who has played on the International Tennis Federation circuit most of the year, is ranked 220th and was given a wild-card berth into the event.